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Title - 'Beggars Banquet: 50th Anniversary Edition'
Artist - Rolling Stones

Recorded between March and July of 1968 at Olympic Sound Studios in London, mixed at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, Beggars Banquet was the first Stones album produced by Jimmy Miller; and marks the start of what is considered their most prolific album era.

The seventh British and ninth American studio album by The Stones it was released Decca Records in the United Kingdom and London Records in the United States.

Listening to it back then, and even today, knowing their iconic history, it's obvious that it was a glorious return to roots rock for the band; following the psychedelic pop of their 1967 album Their Satanic Majesties Request.

Sadly though, it was the last Rolling Stones album to be released during Brian Jones' lifetime, although he also played on two songs on their next album Let It Bleed (which was released after his death).

The Rolling Stones’ landmark 1968 album Beggars Banquet has been released in a new 50th Anniversary Edition by ABKCO Records in multiple formats, including vinyl and CD. The just-released (via ABKCO Records) limited edition vinyl format has a gatefold jacket with a bonus 12” of the album’s celebrated opening track, ‘Sympathy For the Devil,’ in mono.

That disc is cut at 45rpm and backed with an etching of the original “toilet” cover. Also in the package is a replica of the rare Japanese bonus flexi disc, which contains a telephone interview with Mick Jagger from 1968, and a download code for the album plus interview.

Newly mastered by Grammy-winning engineer Bob Ludwig, the disc’s lacquers were cut at Abbey Road and it is also pressed on 180g vinyl.

Side A:
1. 'Sympathy For The Devil'
2. 'No Expectations'
3. 'Dear Doctor'
4. 'Parachute Woman'
5. 'Jigsaw Puzzle'

Side B:
6. 'Street Fighting Man'
7. 'Prodigal Son'
8. 'Stray Cat Blues'
9. 'Factory Girl'
10. 'Salt of the Earth'

Disc 2:
'Sympathy For the Devil' (Mono)

Flexi Disc:
‘Hello, This Is Mick Jagger!’ LONDON to TOKYO April 17, 1968

As for the album itself, well, Beggars Banquet was amazingly risky, diving headlong into not only American blues, which had always influenced them, but also American country music as well; taking it, at times, almost to the point of parody. But boy, did it work!

In a way, it's two albums blended together. On the one hand, there are the country-influenced tunes, such as 'No Expectations', 'Dear Doctor', 'Prodigal Son', and 'Factory Girl'.

On the other hand, there are the classic Stones-sounding tunes, such as 'Sympathy for the Devil', 'Parachute Woman', 'Jigsaw Puzzle', 'Street Fighting Man', 'Stray Cat Blues', and 'Salt of the Earth'. But they work so great together, nonetheless.

There are only two perennial hits from this record, both 'Sympathy for the Devil' and 'Street Fighting Man', but like Exile on Main Street, all the tracks are great (even if you won't hear most of them on the radio).

The telephone interview that Mick Jagger did with a staffer from the Stones’ Japanese label King Records had a title that translated to “’Hello, This Is Mick Jagger!’ LONDON to TOKYO April 17, 1968.”

It is restored with its original sleeve art in the limited edition vinyl package, marking the first time this rarity has been available outside Japan.

Funnily enough, during the conversation, which took place while the band were recording the new album, Jagger is asked “What do you think is the future direction of your music?” He replies: “Sideways!”.

'Beggars Banquet: 50th Anniversary Edition' Purchase Link

Rolling Stones @ Twitter!

Title - 'Nature'
Artist - Paul Kelly

For those not in the know, Paul Kelly is an Australian rock music singer-songwriter, guitarist, and harmonica player.

He has performed solo, and has led numerous groups, including the Dots, the Coloured Girls, and the Messengers and has worked with other artists and groups; including associated projects Professor Ratbaggy and Stardust Five.

Kelly's music style has ranged from bluegrass to studio-oriented dub reggae, but his core output straddles folk, rock, and country. His lyrics capture the vastness of the culture and landscape of Australia by chronicling life about him for over 30 years.

Indeed, David Fricke from Rolling Stone calls Kelly "one of the finest songwriters I have ever heard, Australian or otherwise." Kelly himself has said, "Song writing is mysterious to me. I still feel like a total beginner. I don't feel like I have got it nailed yet".

Incredibly, Nature is the 24th studio album by Kelly! Released last month via Cooking Vinyl, the 12 track beauty is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of Kelly's finest, and most mature collection of songwriting to date.

1. "And Death Shall Have No Dominion"
2. "With the One I Love"
3. "A Bastard Like Me"
4. "Little Wolf"
5. "With Animals"
6. "Bound to Follow (Aisling Song)" (featuring Kate Miller-Heidke)
7. "Seagulls of Seattle"
8. "Morning Storm"
9. "Mushrooms"
10. "The River Song"
11. "God's Grandeur"
12. "The Trees"

We begin beautifully with the storytelling "And Death Shall Have No Dominion" which he backs up seamlessly with both the R.E.M.-esque "With The One I Love" and the quieter, land-faring shanty "A Bastard Like Me." That vein of ballad continues in the toned down "Little Wolf" which is backed with the lyrical revealing within "With Animals."

The joyous bounce of "Bound To Follow (Aisling Song)" featuring the ethereal vocals of Kate Miller-Heidke is one of the true stand out highlights here and that's followed by both the troubadour tales of "Seagulls of Seattle" and then the gentle hipsway of "Morning Storm."

"Mushrooms" is another quiet parlay into our minds, with the infectious melodies of "The River Song" up next. The album then rounds out with the introspective "God's Grandeur" and then, together with Miller-Heidke once again, we get the rather lovely "The Trees."

Amazon CD Purchase Link

Paul Kelly @ Facebook!

Title - 'III'
Artist - Citizen K

For those not in the know, the third album from Klas Qvist and his Citizen K trademark is called III.

As expected, Citizen K III is the best album yet form this Swedish pop artist.

Featuring 13 Beatles-inspired songs, III conjures up an essential blend of catchy 21st century pop-rock vocal tracks balanced by a couple prog-pop instrumental tracks that serve as beat group style instrumental interludes in the style of Stackridge or even Speedy Keen.

The 2018 CD release of III proves that Citizen K is a modern maestro at combining breezy American West Coast Brian Wilson / Chad & Jeremy-style rock with a spirited blend of UK influenced, Swedish art-pop songs.

1. 'Welcome Abroad'
2. 'True Confessions'
3. 'Let This Be Love'
4. 'Toolmaker's Daughter'
5. 'Oceans Call'
6. 'Cancelled Flight'
7. 'How Are You Gonna Handle It?'
8. 'Radio Classic (No More Songs About Jetplanes, Please)'
9. 'Once You Had'
10. 'Piano In The Rain'
11. 'Beasts Of England'
12. 'And You Danced All Night (Coda)'
13. 'After The Fact (Encore)'

We begin with an airport PA system asking people to grab their tickets and passports and begin to board, before the ebbing music comes to the fore and transports us delightfully away on the appropriately entitled instrumental 'Welcome Abroad.'

One of the most joyous and vibrant tracks of this musical ilk that I've heard this year, it's bound to put a smile on your face just imagining the camaraderie shown between the musicians in the studio creating it.

'True Companions' brings us the vocals of Klas Qvist and showcases a singing style that is very reminiscent of Jeff Lynne. Next up is the blissful, summer's day vibe of 'Let This Be Love,' which is backed by the free flowing storytelling of 'Toolmaker's Daughter,' and then the sterner 'Oceans Call.'

The pace is throttled for the delicate, beautiful piano-led losing of a loved one, 'Cancelled Flight,' before a very ELOesque 'How Are You Gonna Handle It? is brought forth. The beat is turned up for the quietly frenetic 'Radio Classic (No More Songs About Jetplanes, Please!)' with one of my own personal favorites, the dulcet tones of 'Once You Had' backing it.

Opening to crashing thunder and pouring rain, up next is 'Piano In The Rain,' which, with every passing lyric, paints the picture of this piano and its history just perfectly. Then comes another of my own personal favorites here, the quieter renaissance instrumental balladry of 'Beasts Of England.'

This quite stunning new album then rounds out perfectly with both the soft rock senseability of 'And You Danced All Night (Coda)' and then 'After The Fact (Encore)' brings the curtain down on what has easily become on of my favorite albums of 2018.

Citizen K @ MySpace!

Title - Electric Ladyland: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
Artist - The Jimi Hendrix Experience

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the release of The Jimi Hendrix Experience masterpiece Electric Ladyland, Experience Hendrix and Legacy Recordings present a special, and OMG, a rather wondrous and heavenly Deluxe Edition box-set.

Spread across 6 150 gram vinyl LPs in 3 gatefold jackets, and also inclusive of a rather nice Blu-ray, Electric Ladyland: 50th Anniversary Edition is as complete now as it ever has been.

Up first is the original double album, now newly remastered by Bernie Grundman from the original analog tapes.

For the LP set, Grundman prepared an all analog direct to disc vinyl transfer of the album, preserving the authenticity.

Side A:
1. '...And the Gods Made Love'
2. 'Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)'
3. 'Crosstown Traffic'
4. 'Voodoo Chile'

Side B:
1. 'Little Miss Strange'
2. 'Long Hot Summer Night'
3. 'Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)'
4. 'Gypsy Eyes'
5. 'Burning of the Midnight Lamp'

Side C:
1. 'Rainy Day, Dream Away'
2. '1983...(A Merman I Should Turn to Be)'
3. 'Moon, Turn the Tides...Gently Gently Away'

Side D:
1. 'Still Raining, Still Dreaming'
2. 'House Burning Down'
3. 'All Along the Watchtower'
4. 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return)'

Back in the day, this was my first real Hendrix album ... and yes I have it on vinyl with the naked women adorning it! This is Hendrix branching out and trying new ideas, moving away from the conventional and into new territory.

Sure, and as expected, there are moments of weirdness ('... And The Gods Made Love'), but unlike those who suggest 'Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)' was mere filler, I vehemently disagree.

Indeed, far from it for Jimi highly impresses with some rather brilliant and blatantly raw guitar work; letting rip with a sensational lick that still sends shivers down my spine when I list to it.

It should also be noted that it's a damn catchy song, complete with some wondrous guitar work as only Jimi could provide. Showcasing the skills of Jimi fantastically, it's as far removed from so-called filler as you could ever imagine.

The well-known songs such as 'Crosstown Traffic' (catchy, upbeat with a fast tempo) and 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return)' - which this box-set now also includes the original, longer version, thankfully - both still impress, of course.

But when you hear the Bob Dylan cover of 'All Along The Watchtower,' well, as you all well know, Jimi makes it his own and stamps his unique style all over it (even to this very day, I far prefer the Hendrix cover to the original).

'Gypsy Eyes' is also another impressive song (complete with those wah-wah moments), and it would be all too easy to overlook the excellent 'House Burning Down' also.

Wonderful, edgy, fast: , and complete with some wicked, and cracking drum work by Mitch Mitchell, Jimi and his vocal style come to the fore in style, that's for sure. Indeed, to my mind, it's definitely a memorable and gritty song that I personally adore.

Of course, with all those noted moments of magic, some madness (or strangeness, shall we say) does creep in, but, for the most part, most of the songs still hold up well. In fact, listening to them all again on this excellent new vinyl box-set, some are still as fresh today as they were back in '68.

It's often commented on that the audio quality of most Hendrix recordings is rather unrefined and raw and as much as the same applies here (though that's what you want to hear on the earlier versions, outtakes and demos, of course), now newly remastered by Bernie Grundman from the original analog tapes, these vinyl LPs sound INCREDIBLE; whilst also preserving the authenticity of the original sound.

Anyway, as is often the case with Jimi (and of Marc Bolan and T.Rex), due to their left-of-center lyrical appeal and musical sounds, you'll love some songs and let others pass you by. A great starting point for newer Hendrix listeners and overall a very worthy album, Electric Ladyland is my go-to for all-things Hendrix; and I hope it might now be yours too.

The third and fourth albums are entitled "Electric Ladyland: The Early Takes", which presents 20 never-before-heard demos and studio outtakes.

Included are incredibly intimate demos for song ideas Hendrix recorded himself on a reel-to-reel tape at the Drake Hotel, as well as early recording session takes featuring guest appearances from Buddy Miles, Stephen Stills and Al Kooper.

Side A:
1. '1983...(A Merman I Should Turn to Be)'
2. 'Voodoo Chile'
3. 'Cherokee Mist'
4. 'Hear My Train a Comin''

Side B:
1. 'Angel'
2. 'Gypsy Eyes'
3. 'Somewhere'
4. 'Long Hot Summer Night'
5. 'Long Hot Summer Night'
6. 'Long Hot Summer Night'
7. 'Snowballs at My Window'
8. 'My Friend'

Side C:
1. 'At Last...The Beginning'
2. 'Angel Caterina (1983)'
3. 'Little Miss Strange'
4. 'Long Hot Summer Night'
5. 'Long Hot Summer Night'

Side D:
1. 'Rainy Day, Dream Away'
2. 'Rainy Day Shuffle'
3. '1983...(A Merman I Should Turn to Be)'

Casting an eye over these early takes and early demos and from the off, something like '1983...(A Merman I Should Turn to Be)' simply comes across as Jimi sat on his sofa, mellowed out, strumming, and finding words from the air to complete the lyrics. Which, trust me, I love, but does it need to be nearly 8 minutes long? Probably not.

The brilliant, albeit 10 minute long 'Voodoo Chile' may well feature a lot of humming from Jimi, but in the midst of it, you can definitely hear the moments when certain aspects of it came together for him. The acoustic guitar strumming of 'My Friend' is a gem to behold, as is the all out jam fest found on 'Rainy Day, Dream Away.'

The fifth and sixth albums are entitled "Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live At the Hollywood Bowl 9/14/68", and are a part of Experience Hendrix's Dagger Records official bootleg series.

The recently unearthed soundboard recording captures the band and the mounting excitement that took place just weeks before the release of the Electric Ladyland album.

Side A:
1. 'Introduction'
2. 'Are You Experienced?'
3. 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return)'

Side B:
1. 'Red House'
2. 'Foxey Lady'
3. 'Fire'

Side C:
1. 'Hey Joe'
2. 'Sunshine of Your Love'
3. 'I Don't Live Today'

Side D:
1. 'Little Wing'
2. 'Star Spangled Banner'
3. 'Purple Haze'

What's most interesting to me, listening to this live set is that after the announcer's 'Introduction' ("Ladies and Gentleman, the group that you've been waiting for. We're very proud and privileged to present them at the Hollywood Bowl. Mitch Mitchell, Noel Redding, Jimi Hendrix ... The Jimi Hendrix Experience"), it's actually Noel who steps to the mic to give the listener a visual reveal.

"Hello, it's very nice to be back, yeah. Just hold on for a few minutes 'cause we have to get our equipment together and tune up and things, all right."

Jimi himself then steps, somewhat sheepishly, to the mic. "How' ya'll doing you ok? Dig, whatever you see is happening now is part of the show. Nothing is rehearsed, as you can tell. We might be tuning up between every single song, 'cause we really care for your ears. Which is why we don't play so loud," he adds.

"And ya'll with ties, I think you should loosen up your tie. Take off your wig or whatever you've got on and just get into it man. It's a relaxing thing, 'cause I'm scared as hell," he gently laughs, backing away from the mic.

This near four minute intro (which continues on in much the same vein) then ends with what Hendrix himself terms as "... the call of the Black Panther" and then, once past the fuzzy, meshing guitars, comes a ten minute 'Are You Experienced?' which is backed seamlessly by a blistering 8 minute 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return).'

They slow the pace down for the 12 minute beauty 'Red House' (supposedly recorded in 1793, according to Jimi's intro), and that's followed by a three minute 'Foxy Lady' ("This is dedicated to somebody' girlfriend and also a girl called Carmen"), and then a less-than-two minute rendition of 'Fire.'

The second LP slows the pace somewhat with 'Hey Joe' (or as Jimi introduces it, "Hey Josephine"), and then backs that up with a stunning seven minute 'Sunshine Of Your Love,' and then a drumtastic 'I Don't Live Today.'

The last side of this two-LP set brings us a beautiful 'Little Wing' (wow, that guitar work gets me every single time), even if it breaks down early on for a minute; with Noel giving out an electrical-stage, crushed-forward public warning.

In what Jimi claims to be the last song in 'Star Spangled Banner,' the actual real show ending treat is the massive showstopper 'Purple Haze.'

The Blu-ray includes the acclaimed full-length documentary "At Last… The Beginning: The Making of Electric Ladyland" plus a new 5.1 surround sound mix of the entire original album by Hendrix’s original engineer Eddie Kramer; plus the original stereo mixes in uncompressed 24 bit/96 kz high resolution audio.

1. Prologue 2. Burning of the Midnight Lamp 3. ...And the Gods Made Love 4. All Along the Watchtower 5. Rainy Day, Dream Away 6. Still Raining, Still Dreaming 7. Voodoo Chile 8. Crosstown Traffic 9. Voodoo Child (Slight Return) 10. Little Miss Strange 11. Gypsy Eyes 12. South Saturn Delta 13. House Burning Down 14. 1983...(A Merman I Should Turn to Be) 15. Long Hot Summer Night 16. Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland) 17. Epilogue 18. ...And the Gods Made Love 19. Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland) 20. Crosstown Traffic 21. Voodoo Chile 22. Little Miss Strange 23. Long Hot Summer Night 24. Come On (Let the Good Times Roll) 25. Gypsy Eyes 26. Burning of the Midnight Lamp 27. Rainy Day, Dream Away 28. 1983...(A Merman I Should Turn to Be) 29. Moon, Turn the Tides...Gently Gently Away 30. Still Raining, Still Dreaming 31. House Burning Down 32. All Along the Watchtower 33. Voodoo Child (Slight Return)'

This INCREDIBLE Electric Ladyland: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition Box-Set includes a full color, 48-page book containing Jimi’s handwritten lyrics, poem and instructions to his record label, as well as never before published photos from the recording sessions that were shot by Eddie Kramer himself.

All contained in a luxe casemade lift top box with new cover art, which is true to Hendrix’s original vision of the album’s cover, the Linda (McCartney) Eastman photograph of the band and children at the statue of Alice In Wonderland in New York’s Central Park is as iconic now as it fast became back then.

'Electric Ladyland: 50th Anniversary Edition' Box-Set Purchase Link

Title - Alcatrazz: The Official Bootleg Box Set 1983-1986
Artist - Alcatrazz

As all fans of heavy rock will for sure already know, Graham Bonnet is a British rock singer/songwriter.

Having performed both solo and as a member of several metal acts such as Rainbow, MSG and the highly under-rated Alcatrazz, it was in 1981 (after his break from Rainbow, which, although he only stayed for a short time with them, still managed to produce some of their finest, all be they pop-fused tracks: 'Since You've Been Gone' and 'I Surrender,' to name just two), that he chose to resume his solo career.

Backtracking to the aforementioned Alcatrazz though, it was his turn in this so-called (at the time) American heavy metal band back in 1983 that began to cement both his name and his distinctive vocals in musical folklore.

Alongside Bonnet at the time were Jimmy Waldo and Gary Shea, and although they will always be best known for their songs 'Island In The Sun' and 'God Blessed Video', Alcatrazz managed to release some still-today noted as incredible rock material.

Indeed, the band's initial line-up consisted of the former Rainbow front man Graham Bonnet, Shea, Waldo, a young Swedish guitarist named Yngwie Malmsteen (who had recently left American band Steeler), and Clive Burr of Iron Maiden fame.

Burr was reportedly only in the band for a week, and left upon discovering the band was going to be based in the United States, as opposed to his native England.

Burr was soon replaced by former Iron Butterfly drummer Jan Uvena, who had just left Alice Cooper's backing band. Also, it was actually Shea who dubbed the group "Alcatrazz".

For the first album, the bulk of the material was written by Bonnet and Malmsteen, with Waldo contributing to several tracks. That debut album was 1983's cock-sure No Parole From Rock 'N' Roll (Rocshire Records), and although the band members came and went, the music still got released.

Next up was 1985's powerhaus Disturbing the Peace, which in turn was followed a year later by Dangerous Games.

In fact, the last few years have been a bumper time for Graham Bonnet fans, as HNE Recordings continue to reissue expanded sets from Graham’s back catalogue as well as Alcatrazz, Blackthorne, Graham’s solo albums and Yngwie Malmsteen’s solo albums.

And now Cherry Red Records have taken the aura of the band and brought out a rather wondrous live/studio/demo collection entitled, Alcatrazz: The Official Bootleg Box Set 1983-1986.

CD's One, Two and Three all feature concerts recorded in Texas in 1984, and although the illicit sound quality is far from perfect, each concert demonstrates what an exciting live prospect Alcatrazz truly were.

Also, and importantly (for the world at large), in Yngwie Malmsteen they had found a fiery, preciously talented lead guitarist.

With only one studio LP to draw on it was inevitable that Bonnet and his new crew would pepper the set with highlights from his back catalogue, including Rainbow’s ‘Since You Been Gone’, ‘All Night Long’ and ‘Lost In Hollywood’ as well as Michael Schenker’s ‘Desert Song’ from the underrated Assault Attack.

From the aforementioned Alcatrazz debut, highlights include ‘Too Drunk To Live , Too Young To Die’, ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’, ‘Big Foot’, ‘Island In The Sun’, ‘Kree Nakoorie’, ‘Suffer Me’ and ‘Jet To Jet’.

These live shows were also an important place for the young Yngwie to showcase his immense talents with a Fender Stratocaster, with his lead guitar solo spot a major highlight of each show.

CD 1: Live Lubbock, 9th March 1984
1. 'Too Drunk to Live, Too Young to Die' (Excerpt)
2. 'Hiroshima Mon Amour'
3. 'Big Foot'
4. 'Island in the Sun'
5. 'Kree Nakoorie'
6. Guitar Solo
7. 'Since You Been Gone'
8. 'Suffer Me'
9. 'Desert Song'
10. 'Jet to Jet'
11. 'All Night Long'
12. 'Lost in Hollywood'
13. 'L9' (Instrumental Demo)
14. 'Stand By Me #1' (Instrumental Demo)
15. 'Undercover' (Writing Demo)
16. 'Double Man' (Instrumental Rough Demo)

CD 2: Texas Sentence Live, March 1984
1. 'Too Drunk to Live, Too Young to Die/Big Foot'
2. 'Island in the Sun'
3. 'Kree Nakoorie'
4. Guitar Solo
5. 'Since You Been Gone'
6. 'Suffer Me'
7. 'Desert Song'
8. 'Jet to Jet'
9. 'Evil Eye'
10. 'All Night Long'
11. 'Lost in Hollywood'
12. 'Dangerous Games' (Instrumental Rough Demo, 1985)
13. 'Danny & Jimmy' (Instrumental Demo #1,1985)
14. 'Danny & Jimmy' (Instrumental Demo #2,1985)
15. 'Undercover' (Background-Vocal Take, 1985)

CD 3: Live San Antonio, March 8th 1984
1. 'Too Young to Die, Too Drunk to Live'
2. 'Hiroshima Mon Amour'
3. 'Big Foot'
4. 'Island in the Sun'
5. 'Kree Nakoorie'
6. Guitar Solo
7. 'Suffer Me' (Excerpt)
8. 'Desert Song'
9. 'All Night Long'

CDs Four and Five are yet another unique and useful insight into the working of this band’s early work ethic, with demos and instrumentals from the 1983 debut demonstrating many of the songs’ developments.

CD 4: Studio Instrumental Mixes, July 19th & 20th, 1983
1. 'Kree Nakoorie'
2. Guitar Solo'
3. 'Suffer Me' (Excerpt)
4. 'Desert Song'
5. 'All Night Long'
6. 'The Witchwood' (Instrumental Demo, 1985)
7. Writing Ideas for Dangerous Games (Tape 01) (1985)
8. Writing Ideas for Dangerous Games (Tape 02) (1985)
9. 'Kree Nakoorie'
10. 'Starrcarr Lane'
11. 'Island in the Sun'
12. 'Big Foot'
13. 'Hiroshima Mon Amour'
14. 'General Hospital'
15. 'Incubus'
16. 'Suffer Me'
17. 'Too Young to Die, Too Drunk to Live'
18. 'Jet to Jet'
Another Rehearsal, 1983
19. 'Jet to Jet #1'
20. 'Jet to Jet #2'
21. 'Jet to Jet #3'
22. 'Kree Nakoorie'
23. 'Starrcarr Lane'
24. 'Hiroshima Mon Amour'

CD 5: Another Rehearsal Two, 1983
1. 'Jet to Jet'
2. 'Kree Nakoorie'
3. 'Starrcarr Lane'
4. 'Hiroshima Mon Amour'
5. 'Island in the Sun'
6. 'Big Foot #1'
7. 'Big Foot #2'
8. 'Big Foot #3'
9. 'Kree Nakoorie' (Another Rehearsal 02, 1983)
10. 'Unreleased Song'
11. 'Incubus'
12. 'Suffer Me' (With Graham Vocal) (Another Rehearsal 02, 1983)
13. 'S.O.S.' (Lawrence Juber, Guitar) & Robert Williams, Drums Audition)
14. 'S.O.S.' (Jon Hyde Audition)
15. 'Double Man' (Instrumental 24 Track Studio Demo)

Following Yngwie’s departure in 1984, Alcatrazz featured the undeniable talents of Steve Vai on lead guitar, before settling on the more bluesy stylings of Danny Johnson, who features on CD6, working on various song ideas for Alcatrazz’s third and final studio album in 1986, Dangerous Games.

CD 6: Dangerous Games Era Writing Sessions, Instrumentals & Demo Ideas 1985/86
1. 'You Can't Take the Rock Out of Roll' (Danny Johnson Vocals)
2. 'Rockin' Idea' (Instrumental 24 Track Studio Demo)
3. 'Ghostly Idea' (Jimmy & Graham Musical Idea)
4. 'Atmospheric Idea' (Danny & Jimmy Demo)
5. 'Fast Idea' (Danny & Jimmy Demo)
6. 'Mid-Tempo Idea' (Danny & Jimmy Demo)
7. 'Another Mid-Tempo Idea' (With Graham Vocal Idea Intro)
8. 'Another Rockin Idea (Danny & Jimmy Demo)'
9. 'Floaty Idea (Danny & Jimmy Demo)'
10. 'Please Call Me (Instrumental Demo)'
11. 'Slow Idea (Danny & Jimmy Demo)'
12. 'Stand By Me #2 (Instrumental Demo)'
13. 'Blue Boar (Intrumental Demo Take #2)'
14. 'Dangerous Games (Instrumental 24 Track Studio Demo)'
15. 'Ohayo Tokyo (Instrumental Demo)'
16. 'Set Me Free (Instrumental Demo Take #5)'
17. 'Undercover (Instrumental Demo #2)'
18. 'Undercover (Instrumental Demo #3)'
19. 'Rider (Instrumental Demo #2)'
20. 'The Witchwood/Christmas Greeting'
21. 'Jimmy Waldo Idea' (Jimmy Waldo Demo)
22. 'Synth Idea' (Jimmy & Graham Musical Idea)
23. 'Graham... Am I Fired Too'

Listening to these CDs, one after another, quite literally binge-listening Alcatrazz live and in the studio, it's really obvious why Cherry Red issued this "warning" about the audio quality on the same page as the sales pitch: "Whilst every effort has been made to produce the best possible audio, limitations in the material drawn from various, non-standard and unofficial sources means that the quality may not be up to the standard usually expected."

"All tracks have been included for their historical importance, and to present an alternative anthology of Graham Bonnet and Alcatrazz live on stage and in rehearsal, from 1983-1986."

And, in all fairness, and whilst they are telling it like it truly is, all fans of Graham Bonnet and Alcatrazz should already surely know that what they have in their hands with this brilliant 6CD Box-Set is, without a shadow of a doubt, musical gold.

It truly doesn't matter how bad or uneasy or fuzzy some of these live recordings are for the unearthed, rare studio gems contained inside here are worth, as mentioned, their weight in gold, that's for damn sure.

'Alcatrazz: The Official Bootleg Box Set 1983-1986' - 6CD Official Purchase Link

Title - 'Meltdown: Live In Mexico City 2017'
Artist - King Crimson

For those not in the know, King Crimson are an English progressive rock band formed in London in 1968.

In fact, King Crimson have been influential both on the early 1970s progressive rock movement and numerous contemporary artists.

Indeed, the band has undergone numerous formations throughout its history of which 21 musicians have been members; since October 2017 it has consisted of Robert Fripp, Jakko Jakszyk, Tony Levin, Mel Collins, Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison, Jeremy Stacey and Bill Rieflin.

Nowadays, Fripp is the only consistent member of the group and is considered the band's leader and driving force and with the band having earned a large cult following, they were ranked No. 87 on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.

The just-released Meltdown: Live in Mexico City 2017 is a wondrous deluxe 3CD + Blu-Ray set, presented in two mini-vinyl style gatefold packs with booklet including photos by Tony Levin and new sleeve notes enclosed in an outer slipcase.

Mixed by King Crimson member Bill Rieflin from full multi track recordings the three CDs feature over three and a half hours of material performed during the band's five nights residency at Teatro Metropolitan, Mexico City in July 2017 + audio extras.

The highly impressive Blu-ray features over two hours of multi camera HD recorded footage from Mexico City and comes complete with an audio soundtrack in 24/48 LPCM Hi-res stereo and 5.1 DTS HD-MA; with "picture off" mode allowing the music to be heard independently in pristine, lossless audio.

CD 1:
1. 'Walk On'
2. 'Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part One'
3. 'Neurotica'
4. 'Cirkus'
5. 'Dawn Song'
6. 'Last Skirmish'
7. 'Prince Rupert's Lament'
8. 'The Hell Hounds of Krim'
9. 'Red'
10. 'Fallen Angel'
11. 'Islands'
12. 'The Talking Drum'
13. 'Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part Two'

CD 2:
1. 'Indiscipline'
2. 'The Construkction of Light'
3. 'Epitaph'
4. 'Banshee Legs Bell Hassle'
5. 'Easy Money'
6. 'Interlude'
7. 'The Letters'
8. 'The Sailor's Tale'
9. 'Catalytikc No. 9'
10. 'Meltdown'
11. 'Radical Action II'
12. 'Level Five'
13. 'Starless'

CD 3:
1. 'Peace - An End'
2. 'Pictures of a City'
3. 'Devil Dogs of Tessellation Row'
4. 'Fracture'
5. 'The Court of the Crimson King'
6. 'Heroes'
7. '21st Century Schizoid Man'
8. 'Discipline'
9. 'Moonchild'
10. 'Tony's Cadenza'
11. 'Jeremy's Cadenza'
12. 'Breathless'

+ Blu-ray (Audio/Video)
1. 'Walk On'
2. 'Neurotica'
3. 'Pictures of a City'
4. 'Cirkus'
5. 'Dawn Song'
6. 'Last Skirmish'
7. 'Prince Rupert’s Lament'
8. 'Epitaph'
9. 'Devil Dogs'
10. 'Fracture'
11. 'Islands'
12. 'Intermission - Indiscipline'
13. 'Peace – An End'
14. 'Easy Money'
15. 'Interlude'
16. 'The Letters'
17. 'The Sailors Tale'
18. 'CatalytiKc No. 9'
19. 'Fallen Angel'
20. 'The Talking Drum'
21. 'Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part 2'
22. 'Starless'
23. 'The Hell Hounds of Krim'
24. '21st Century Schizoid Man'

As I'm sure all KC fans are aware, King Crimson has continued to evolve over the years and in doing so, their improvisational perspective has widened, I think I'd be safe in saying.

Ergo, Crimson's evolution in band members along the way, and also in the past few years, has meant that the core - Fripp - has himself become far more organic to each and every project (live or otherwise).

And so, live in Mexico City in 2017, Crimson's five night stand produced some of their best work to date. Refreshed and revitalized material from (almost) across the band's entire history sprung forth and one can only put that down to the "newer" personnel being welcomed to interpret studio material - that had originally included far more layers and instrumentation than any of Crimson's previous quartet configurations - in their own ways.

"In this incarnation there is no member/s who believes themself to be special, or their contribution privileged in some way," Fripp said about the band that played those gigs. "There's no melodrama. Every night each member of the band comes to the gig with no other purpose than to play their very best."

And play their best they most certainly did, for not only does the audio side of things play magnificently, track by track, but viewing Meltdown on the Blu-ray we see that some glorious qualities of camera's have been used (unlike previous live recorded encounters with the band).

Thankfully, not one gets in the way of the group's performances - as is so often the case with Prog bands - and given that each band member seemingly has their own dedicated camera focused on them; from various angles, well, the fact there are also numerous side and back views, and this truly is a rather complete viewing experience.

In closing, sure, of course, there are so many highlights here on Meltdown that it's just impossible to begin to list them all. Suffice to say that the more well known KC cuts are the loudest appreciated, whereas those dark horse numbers are the more gainfully welcomed.

Mel Collins: Saxes & flute
Robert Fripp: Guitar & keyboards
Gavin Harrison: Drums
Jakko Jakszyk: Guitar & voice
Tony Levin: Basses & stick
Pat Mastelotto: Drum
Bill Rieflin: Keyboards
Jeremy Stacey: Drums & keyboards

'Meltdown: Live in Mexico City 2017' - 3CD + Blu-ray Purchase Link

King Crimson @ Facebook!

Title - 'Come Stay With Me - The UK 45s 1964-1969'
Artist - Marianne Faithfull

For those not in the know, Marianne Faithfull is an English singer, songwriter and actress. She achieved popularity in the 1960s with the release of her hit single "As Tears Go By" and became one of the lead female artists during the British Invasion in the United States.

Born in Hampstead, London, Faithfull began her career in 1964 after attending a Rolling Stones party where she was discovered by Andrew Loog Oldham.

After the release of her hit single "As Tears Go By", she became an international star. Her debut album Marianne Faithfull (1965) (released simultaneously with her album Come My Way) was a commercial success followed by a number of albums on Decca Records.

From 1966 to 1970, she had a highly publicized romantic relationship with Mick Jagger. Her popularity was further enhanced by her film roles, such as I'll Never Forget What's'isname (1967), The Girl on a Motorcycle (1968), and Hamlet (1969).

However, her popularity was overshadowed by personal problems in the 1970s. During that time she was anorexic, alcoholic and a heroin addict.

Noted for her distinctive voice, Faithfull's previously melodic and higher registered vocals (which were prevalent throughout her career in the 1960s) were affected by severe laryngitis, coupled with persistent drug abuse during the 1970s, permanently altering her voice, leaving it raspy, cracked and lower in pitch.

This new sound was praised as "whisky soaked" by some critics for helping capture the raw emotions expressed in her music.

After a long commercial absence, Faithfull made a comeback with the 1979 release of her critically acclaimed album Broken English. The album was a commercial success and marked a resurgence of her musical career.

Broken English earned Faithfull a nomination for Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance and is often regarded as her "definitive recording."

She followed with a series of albums, including Dangerous Acquaintances (1981), A Child's Adventure (1983), and Strange Weather (1987). Faithfull also wrote three books about her life: Faithfull: An Autobiography (1994), Memories, Dreams & Reflections (2007), and Marianne Faithfull: A Life on Record (2014).

Just released via ABKCO Records, Come Stay With Me - The UK 45s 1964-1969 is a collection of all the A and B-sides of the ten singles Marianne recorded for UK Decca between 1964 and 1969; plus her Go Away From My World EP, for good measure.

1. 'As Tears Go By'
2. 'Greensleeves'
3. 'Blowin' in the Wind'
4. 'House of the Rising Sun'
5. 'Come and Stay With Me'
6. 'What Have I Done Wrong'
7. 'This Little Bird'
8. 'Morning Sun'
9. 'Go Away from My World'
10. 'The Most of What Is Least'
11. 'Et Maintenant (What Now My Love?)'
12. 'The Sha La La Song'
13. 'Summer Nights'
14. 'Yesterday'
15. 'Oh Look Around You'
16. 'Tomorrow's Calling'
17. 'That's Right Baby'
18. 'Counting'
19. 'I'd Like to Dial Your Number'
20. 'Is This What I Get for Loving You?'
21. 'Something Better'
22. 'Sister Morphine'

Mastered from the best possible sources, including some fresh Abbey Road transfers of the original tapes, all these lush tracks are in authentic mono, just like the actual 45s.

The CD begins with Marianne's Top 20 hit 'As Tears Go By,' and backs that up with the endearing 'Greensleeves.' The delightful 'Blowin' In The Wind' is next and showcases that aforementioned raspy change in her vocal expression perfectly and that's followed by both 'House Of The Rising Sun' and another of her Top 20 hits, the poppy bounce of the Jackie DeShannon-written cut, 'Come And Stay With Me.'

The singer who quickly became one of the lead female artists during the British Invasion in the United States then brings us the gentle '70s psych pop of 'What Have I Done Wrong,' which she backs us seamlessly with 'another Top 20 hit in 'This Little Bird.' The foot-tappin' 'Morning Sun' is next and is backed by the hipsway of 'Go Away From My World' and the slow hand clap ballad, 'The Most Of What Is Least.'

Produced by Andrew Loog Oldham, Mike Leander, Tony Calder and Mick Jagger, next up is the French-sung delight 'Et Maintenant (What Now My Love?),' the finger-snappin' delight 'The Sha La La Song,' and another Top 20 hit in the form of 'Summer Nights.' A cover of The Beatles' Yesterday' is then backed by the psych appeal of 'Oh Look Around You,' the poppier 'Tomorrow's Calling,' and one of my own personal favorites, the lesser known, Shirley Bassey-esque 'That's Right Baby.'

The laid back flow of 'Counting' is a pure delight to behold, and that's followed by the gentle pop sense balladry of 'I'd Like To Dial Your Number' and then the all-out chart pop sound of 'Is This What I Get For Loving You?' The album then rounds out with the lesser-known gem 'Something Better' and then controversial cut, 'Sister Morphine.'

Written by Marianne Faithfull, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, she released the original version of the song as the B-side to her Decca Records single 'Something Better' (February 1969), bu interestingly enough, a different version was released two years later by the Rolling Stones for their 1971 album Sticky Fingers.

Come Stay With Me - The UK 45s 1964-1969 is packaged in a sumptuous 24-page booklet boasting a 6000-word note by leading music journalist Kris Needs and features many illuminating quotes from Marianne herself.

In addition to the gorgeous cover shot by photographer Tom Frank, the CD booklet also includes seven stunning full-page color portraits from the mid-60s.

CD Purchase Link

Title - 'To Everyone in All the World: A Celebration ...'
Artist - John McCutcheon

For those not in the know, John McCutcheon is an American folk music singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who has produced 40 albums to date since the 1970s.

Indeed, he is regarded as a master of the hammered dulcimer, and is also proficient on many other instruments including guitar, banjo, autoharp, mountain dulcimer, fiddle, and jawharp.

This prolific folk instrumentalist and singer has now brought out a brand new album, dedicated to someone still so firmly bonded within him, both musically and spiritually: Pete Seeger.

Pete Seeger introduced America to itself, one song at a time. Whether it was "Erie Canal" or "If I Had a Hammer," he told us about ourselves and helped us imagine who we might become.

Hence, this wonderful tribute album to the man who would have turned 100, To Everyone in All the World: A Celebration of Pete Seeger (out January 11th, 2019) is all part of McCutcheon's plan to celebrate Seeger's 100th birthday with a recording of some of the songs that moved him the most during his long years as one of his many students, colleagues, and friends.

1. "Well May the World Go" (Pete Seeger) (3:11) - with Hot Rize & Stuart Duncan
2. "If I Had a Hammer" (Pete Seeger & Lee Hays) (4:13) - with members of Beausoleil avec Michael Doucet
3. "God Bless the Grass" (Melvina Reynolds) (3:16)
4. "Die Gedanken Sind Frie" (Arthur Kevess & Hoffmann von Fallersleben) (2:46) with Finest Kind
5. "Guantanamera" (Jose Martí, Julian Orbon, Hector Angulo and Pete Seeger) (4:08) with Katia Cardenal
6. "Sailing Down My Golden River" (Pete Seeger) (3:30) with Suzy Bogguss
7. "Letter to Eve" (Pete Seeger) (5:16)
8. "Mrs. Clara Sullivan’s Letter" (Melvina Reynolds & Pete Seeger) (4:49)
9. "Living in the Country" (Pete Seeger) (2:54) with Stuart Duncan
10. "Talking Union" (Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, & Millard Lampell) (5:09) with Corey Harris
11. "To Everyone in All the World" (Pete Seeger) (1:57) with Tim O’Brien & Stuart Duncan
12. "Turn, Turn, Turn" (Pete Seeger) (3:51) with The Steel Wheels
13. "The Spider’s Web" (EB White & Pete Seeger) (1:31)
14. "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" (Pete Seeger) (3:31)
15. "How Can I Keep from Singing?" (trad.) (3:09)

“This is an album I’ve been waiting over fifty years to make!” said folk music stalwart, John McCutcheon, of this, his fortieth recording.

In this wide-ranging tribute to the music of his friend and mentor Pete Seeger, McCutcheon draws from an amazing swath of the folk music world: the bluegrass of Hot Rize, the Cajun soul of Beausoleil, the stunning harmonies of Canada’s Finest Kind, the lush alto of Nicaragua’s Katia Cardenal, blues great Corey Harris, fiddle wizard Stuart Duncan, and country music’s Suzy Bogguss.

McCutcheon’s inventive arrangements and familiar ease with the material showcase the spectrum of music left us by the iconic Seeger just perfectly. Beginning with the upbeat banjo picking and light fiddle work of "Well May the World Go", that bleeds seamlessly into the delightful "If I Had a Hammer," the sterner "God Bless the Grass," and then both beautifully breezy "Die Gedanken Sind Frie" and the Latin hipsway of "Guantanamera."

The lovely ballad "Sailing Down My Golden River" (with Suzy Bogguss) is just such a genuine delight to behold and is followed by the late night jazz club, finger-snappin' appeal of "Letter to Eve." The sprightly storytelling of "Mrs. Clara Sullivan’s Letter" is backed by the folk richness of both "Living in the Country" and then the gentle rap/rock vibe of 'Talking Union.'

The title track, "To Everyone in All the World" is then followed by the delicate piano work of "Turn, Turn, Turn," which in turn (sorry, couldn't stop myself) is backed by the dulcet "The Spider's Web."

The album then rounds out with some more spirited, imaginative folk-rock arrangements found within "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" with the storytelling of the traditional "How Can I Keep from Singing?" thereafter.

Title - 'Unchained Melodies: Volume 2' [2LP Vinyl]
Artist - Roy Orbison & The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

This highly-anticipated follow-up to last year's well-received A Love So Beautiful, once again features stellar Roy Orbison vocal performances with brand-new orchestral arrangements by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO).

Recorded at Abbey Road Studios and released November 23rd, 2018 through Sony Music’s Legacy Recordings in partnership with Roy’s Boys LLC (the Nashville-based company founded by Roy Orbison’s sons to administer their father’s catalog and safeguard his legacy), this rather terrific new 2LP vinyl album also features additional accompaniment from Roy's three sons and backing vocals from their wives and children.

Side A:
1. 'Unchained Melody'
2. 'Blue Bayou'
3. 'She's a Mystery to Me'
4. 'Heartbreak Radio'

Side B:
1. 'Falling'
2. 'Walk On'
3. 'The Great Pretender'

Side C:
1. 'The Crowd'
2. 'The Comedians'
3. 'Crawling Back'

Side D:
1. 'Danny Boy'
2. 'Too Soon to Know'
3. 'Careless Heart'
4. 'California Blue'

Unchained Melodies once again features the production team of Don Reedman and Nick Patrick, the very same duo behind the successful release of both If I Can Dream: Elvis Presley with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and The Wonder of You: Elvis Presley with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

With last year’s A Love So Beautiful focused on Orbison's hits, this follow-up is more attune to those of his secondary tracks that always sounded like they could be enhanced within an orchestral format.

Indeed, as both 'Unchained Melody' and 'Blue Bayou' are playing on the turntable (which, in truth and as we all know, is the only way to listen to vinyl) as I type, and my mind is caught between thinking and listening; and yet always flashing back to an era when Orbison ruled the airwaves, it's interesting to know that some of these glorious tracks were actually included as the result of a poll.

Which I think is rather lovely, that his fans get to choose which songs of his they would appreciate hearing done with an orchestral vibe on this terrific salute to the great man.

With that in mind, the aforementioned 'Blue Bayou' was in that recognized Top 6, along with 'Walk On,' 'Leah,' 'Crawling Back,' 'Danny Boy' and the lush 'California Blue.'

On an album chock full of incredible Orbison musical memories, the stand out tracks for me personally include the trio of the aforementioned 'Crawling Back,' his soaring 'The Great Pretender' and a rockin' 'Heartbreak Radio' (once complete with my favorite singer of all time, ELO's Jeff Lynne, backing him).

But lest we forget the subtle beauty of a smooth 'She's A Mystery To Me,' the euphoric 'Falling,' the Bavarianesque 'The Crowd,' and both the very Christmasy pairing of 'The Comedians' and then the sensationally beautiful, and over six minutes long, 'Danny Boy.'

With the 14-track double vinyl album representing his work from sessions in both 1963 and 1988 (just before his untimely passing in December of that year), Unchained Melodies is a collection of Orbison hits that not only have stood the test of time, but where the RHO have, without a shadow of a doubt, lovingly recreated new soundscapes to adorn them all.

That said, please know that the only track missing from this 2LP set (but is included on the CD/digital editions of the album, is an alternate version of 'Heartbreak Radio' (from his posthumous album, King of Hearts), that features a virtual collaboration between Roy and country music sensation CAM.

The California-born singer/songwriter emerged as a breakthrough artist with her international hit 'Burning House,' which garnered CAM her first platinum record, #1 country single, and Grammy® Award nomination for Best Country Solo Performance.

"It's nice that we get to have Cam sing on the new record,” said Wesley Orbison. “'Heartbreak Radio' sounds like a new, fresh track, which it is. She really brings a terrific energy to it – just so bright and creative."

Available on CD and digital formats on November 16th, and my personal favorite, this wondrous double vinyl LP on this just-past November 23rd, this brand-new album truly infuses Orbison’s best original vocal performances with the emotion and world-class musicianship of the RPO; London’s most notable orchestra.

Purchase Links

Watch video about the making of Unchained Melodies: Roy Orbison with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra!

Title - 'Brahms: Late Piano Music, Opp. 76, 79, 116-119'
Artist - Charles Owen

For those not in the know, the Charles Owen has enjoyed an extensive international career performing a wide ranging repertoire to outstanding critical acclaim.

He has appeared at London’s Barbican and Queen Elizabeth Hall and regularly gives recitals at the Wigmore Hall and Kings Place.

Internationally, he has performed at the Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall in New York, the Brahms Saal in Vienna’s Musikverein, the Paris Musée d’Orsay, and the Moscow Conservatoire.

His chamber music partners include Julian Rachlin, Chloe Hanslip, Augustin Hadelich and Nicholas Daniel as well as the Vertavo, Takacs and Elias Quartets.

He also enjoys a highly successful piano duo partnership with Katya Apekisheva. Together they are Artistic Directors of the London Piano Festival, an annual celebration of the piano held at Kings Place.

On his latest release for AVIE Records, Brahms: Late Piano Music, Opp. 76, 79, 116-119, Charles Owen traverses the late piano works by Johannes Brahms, in which he finds myriad moods and the composer both nostalgic and forward looking.

CD: 1
1-8 8 Klavierstücke Op 76
9-10 2 Rhapsodies Op 79
11-17 7 Fantasias Op 116

CD: 2
1-3 3 Intermezzi Op 117
4-9 6 Klavierstücke Op 118
10-13 4 Klavierstücke Op 119

Within this collection of exemplary, and enthusiastically performed Capriccios, Rhapsodies and Intermezzi, Charles reveals myriad moods with the composer harking back as well as facing forward.

Beginning in some truly fine form with evocations of Schubert, Schumann and Liszt in the 8 Klavierstücke, Op. 76, he moves seamlessly onward with the winter-like darkness in the 2 Op. 79 Rhapsodies.

Hungarian foot-stomping dance forms come to the magnificent fore in the 7 Fantasies that comprise Op. 116, whereas nostalgic contemplation are the order of the day in the Op. 117 Intermezzi.

Changing the course of things, we then welcome romantic inflections within the 6 Op. 118 Klavierstücke which were dedicated to Clara Schumann, before rounding out the second CD with the tonally forward 4 Klavierstücke, Op. 119.

As for my own personal tastes, the stand out here is the 8 Klavierstücke Op.76, from the 1870s. At ease in looking backward to Schumann, and even farther back, to Schubert, Owen strongly embodies the spirit of the era perfectly.

In closing, here on Brahms: Late Piano Music, Opp. 76, 79, 116-119, pianist Charles Owen brings forth - and especially so in some of the more heartbreaking, rooted sadness of moments - some of his most dedicated, and forthright material to date.

CD Purchase Link

Title - 'C.R.E.A.M' (Die-Cut 7 Inch Logo Picture Disc)
Artist - Wu-Tang Clan

In what has to be one of the best vinyl releases of the year thus far, Certified Classic’s released a limited run of Wu-Tang Clan’s iconic third single “C.R.E.A.M.” as a special Die-Cut 7” Picture Disc in the shape of the legendary Wu-Tang Logo!

Oh, and there's more as there is also an exclusive “36 Chambers” t-shirt - in partnership with Live Nation, Wu-Tang’s official merch company - released to commemorate the 25th milestone album anniversary of Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) too!

The magnificent re-issue single vinyl is backed with the single’s original B-side “The Mystery of Chessboxin” and was made available on December 14th at WuTang25 Artists Store.

Side A:
A1. "C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me)" - (Album Version)

Side B:
B1. "Da Mystery Of Chessboxin'" - (Album Version)

Released as a single in early 1994, the song was produced by Wu-Tang Clan leader RZA, and samples The Charmels' 1967 song, "As Long As I've Got You".

As I'm sure you all know by now, "C.R.E.A.M." features a verse from Raekwon, a long verse from Inspectah Deck and the hook performed by Method Man: "Cash rules everything around me, C.R.E.A.M./Get the money; dollar, dollar bill, y'all."

The music video for "C.R.E.A.M." features the members of the Wu-Tang Clan starting off at the projects in Staten Island and moving on to a more lavish lifestyle of champagne and Mercedes.

It also features classic early '90s urban New York styles of dress, as the majority of the people in the video are wearing goose-downs, Champion hoodies, black skullies, and either wheat or black Timberlands.

You want more Wu-Tang?

OK, you got it for Certified Classics also celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) with the release of 'For The Children: 25 Years of Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)' short film on November 9th, 2018!

The short film celebrates the music of the album as it turns 25 years old. Through the words of the members of Wu-Tang, they recount the founding principles that brought them together as a group, the struggles of growing up and how this fueled their lyrical content, the production of key songs and the lasting impact of the album.

Click Here to View It

About Certified Classics
Certified Classics is Legacy Recordings’ division for the celebration of Sony Music’s Hip-Hop and R&B catalog. With artists like The Fugees, Maxwell, Nas, A Tribe Quest, Xscape, Aaliyah and many more, Certified pays homage to the legendary innovators of Hip-Hop and R&B by preserving, curating and reissuing repertoire from the 1980s through the early 2000s.

Launched in 2016, Certified creates opportunities to discuss, revisit, and renew interest in a genre that shaped an entire culture, making the leap from a grassroots form of expression to a mainstream juggernaut with staying power.

Certified provides contemporary music fans access to rare and unreleased albums, singles, remixes, photos and video footage from iconic labels that have come through the Sony label system such as Jive, Loud, Ruffhouse, J Records, Arista, LaFace, So So Def, Profile, RCA Records, Epic, and Columbia—all in an effort to tell stories that help illustrate the impact R&B and Hip-Hop have made on music and the world.

Anniversary Bundles Purchase Links

Title - 'Brahms: The Symphonies' [4CD]
Artist - Daniel Barenboim / Staatskapelle Berlin

For those not in the classical know, Daniel Barenboim, KBE is a pianist and conductor who is a citizen of Argentina, Israel, Palestine, and Spain.

The current general music director of the Berlin State Opera and the Staatskapelle Berlin, Barenboim previously served as Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre de Paris and La Scala in Milan.

Indeed, Barenboim is known for his work with the West–Eastern Divan Orchestra, a Seville-based orchestra of young Arab and Israeli musicians, and as a resolute critic of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Barenboim has received many awards and prizes, including seven Grammy awards, an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, France's Légion d'honneur both as a Commander and Grand Officier, and the German Großes Bundesverdienstkreuz and Willy Brandt Award.

Together with the Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said, he was given Spain's Prince of Asturias Concord Award. Barenboim is a polyglot, fluent in Spanish, Hebrew, English, French, Italian, and German.

Having just released this wondrous 4CD box-set collection entitled Brahms: The Symphonies via Deutsche Grammophon, it's important to note that the recordings were made in Berlin’s newest hall; the 700-seat Pierre Boulez Saal of the Barenboim-Said Akademie.

With Barenboim, as seemingly now always, alongside the truly wondrous Berlin Staatskapelle, the opera orchestra (that, of course, also plays concerts) combine to ensure some addictive listening, that's for sure.

As aforementioned, Barenboim inherited the Berlin State Opera in 1992, and back then Beethoven was a priority, as well as Wagner. Now it is Brahms’s turn in a cycle of the four symphonies of rare pedigree and depth of musical wealth.

Indeed, an aspect that makes this such an incredible musical venture can be summed up perfectly in the small stuff: such as his use of divided violins, which highlights perfectly Brahms’ antiphonal effects and helps open up the overall orchestration.

This is Barenboim’s second recorded Brahms cycle. The first was with the Chicago Symphony in 1993, just two years after he inherited the orchestra from Georg Solti.

Between the different tonal quality of the Staatskapelle vs. Chicago Symphony and the sense that Barenboim has perhaps lightened his touch, these sound very different than his CSO cycle.

Overall the tempi are similar to Chicago as you might expect (relying on my memory, did not make any comparisons). But with the occasional broadening to let some phrase or section breathe or have more impact.

A rather splendid example is the slow introduction to the 4th movement of Symphony 1. Broadened to devastating impact.

CD 1: Symphony No. 1 in C minor op. 68
CD 2: Symphony No. 2 in D major op. 73
CD 3: Symphony No. 3 in F major op. 90
CD 4: Symphony No. 4 in E minor op. 98

Amazon Purchase Link

Title - 'This Scottish Heart' [2CD]
Artist - Dean Ford

For those not in the know, much like myself, Dean Ford (actually born Thomas McAleese) is a Scottish singer and songwriter best known for his tenure as lead vocalist and frontman of the beat pop group Marmalade from 1966 to 1974.

Ford (credited as McAleese) co-wrote the group's worldwide hit "Reflections of My Life" with fellow band member Junior Campbell. Indeed, "Reflections of My Life" has sold more than two million units globally, and in 1998 the writers were awarded a Special Citation of Achievement by BMI for attaining radio broadcast performances in excess of one million in the U.S. alone.

Ford now brings us a wondrous 2CD album entitled This Scottish Heart via Shine On Records. This Scottish Heart includes thirty tracks that will amaze the listener with its strong melody, intelligent harmonies and catchy song-craft throughout.

Also inclusive of a re-visited, tasteful acoustic reworking of that very same hit, "Reflections Of My Heart," Ford's lyrics encompass all aspects of his life.

Having recorded the new album in a small kitchenette area entirely with his laptop computer, with almost all of the effort being performed and sung by the veteran musician, this beautiful, chock full of musical heart and soul goodness album finally allows Ford to relate the truth of his personal journey through these reflections of his life.

CD 1: A New Day | Little Man | Running Out Of Time | Natasha | The Blue Angel | Butterflies In June | Until The Day I Die | I Got You | God Is | Precious Little Boy | Merry Go Round | Cowboy Joe | Restless Heart | He's An Angel | Left My Heart In Mexico | When Will It End | Dreamland.

CD 2: Glasgow Road | This Scottish Heart | Glasgow Night | Bonnie Mary | Made In Scotland | A Song For Mary | Nineteen Fifty Three | Daddy | Buddy, Roy And Dion | Blue Horizon | Callander | For McDougall | Reflections Of My Life.

Amazon Purchase Link

Dean Ford @ Facebook!

Title - 'Sunshine Rock'
Artist - Bob Mould

For those not in the know, Bob Mould is an American musician, principally known for his work as guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter for alternative rock bands Hüsker Dü in the 1980s and Sugar in the 1990s.

Ever-evolving artist Bob Mould - whose face, it has been said, belongs on the Mount Rushmore of alternative music - decided to "write to the sunshine," as he describes it; not because he likes the current administration!

Indeed, it comes from a more personal place. A place found in Berlin, Germany, where he's spent the majority of the last three years. Here Mould would draw inspiration from the new environments.

Hence, the theme, the cathartic vocals, and the strings all amount to Mould's catchiest, grabbiest album since Copper Blue, the acclaimed 1992 debut of his trio Sugar.

Back then, Mould's work in Hüsker Dü, as a solo artist, and in Sugar helped define the sound of guitar rock in the alternative age.

Hence, his brand new solo album, Sunshine Rock (releasing February 8th, 2019 via Merge Records)finds him doing it again for an era that has ostensibly eschewed rock.

Sunshine Rock follows the 2016 release of Patch the Sky, which was hailed by Rolling Stone as "conjuring the ecstatic rage of his earlier bands for a grim new era" and as "tight, sharp musings on aging, fizzled relationships and death that are melodic enough to sound like songs of victory" by the New York Times.

Indeed, Patch the Sky completed a trilogy including it's 2014 predecessor Beauty & Ruin and 2012's Silver Age.

1. 'Sunshine Rock'
2. 'What Do You Want Me to Do'
3. 'Sunny Love Song'
4. 'Thirty Dozen Roses'
5. 'The Final Years'
6. 'Irrational Poison'
7. 'I Fought'
8. 'Sin King'
9. 'Lost Faith'
10. 'Camp Sunshine'
11. 'Send Me a Postcard'
12. 'Western Sunset'

From the off you know who's singing and what you're in for, as the lead track 'Sunshine Rock' is as guitar jangly, as vocally raw, and as deeply indie honest as anything that he's ever brought forth.

All out rockers such as 'What Do You Want Me to Do,' the R.E.M.-esque 'Sunny Love Song,' the ferocious, pounding, angry 'Thirty Dozen Roses' and the indie punk feel of 'I Fought,' and 'Send Me a Postcard' all entertain accordingly.

Caught in between are quietly thoughtful affairs such as 'The Final Years' and the joyful, storytelling bounce of 'Camp Sunshine,' the mid-tempo rolls of 'Irrational Poison' and 'Sin King,' a quite possibly personal dive into Religion within 'Lost Faith,' and the album-ending pop-rock stunner 'Western Sunset.'

Amazon Purchase Link

Title - 'Goes West'
Artist - William Tyler

For those not in the know, William Tyler is an American musician and guitarist who plays folk, indie folk, and pop rock.

He is a member of Lambchop and Silver Jews and his debut studio album, Behold the Spirit, was released on November 22nd, 2010.

Tyler's second studio album, Impossible Truth, was released on March 19th, 2013, his third Modern Country June 3rd, 2016 (both via Merge Records), and now his fourth album, the rather stunning effort Goes West, is due out January 25th, 2019 (once again via Merge Records).

1. 'Fail Safe'
2. 'Not in Our Stars'
3. 'Call Me When I'm Breathing Again'
4. 'Eventual Surrender'
5. 'Rebecca'
6. 'Venus in Aquarius'
7. 'Virginia Is for Loners'
8. 'Man in a Hurry'
9. 'Our Lady of the Desert'

Goes West marks a narrowing of focus for Tyler's music for it sounds as though he has found a way to point himself directly toward the rich and bittersweet emotional center of each track; without being distracted by wayward side ventures.

The beautiful guitar work of Tyler immediately comes to the fore on the opening track, 'Fail Safe,' which in turn is backed by the playful bounce of 'Not in Our Stars.' The quietly lush orchestrations of 'Call Me When I'm Breathing Again,' is then followed seamlessly by the layered, textured work of 'Eventual Surrender.'

The mood changes slightly for the more tonal 'Rebecca' which is backed by the dulcet string work of 'Venus in Aquarius' and then the stunning military ambiance brought forth within 'Virginia Is for Loners' captivates from the very start.

A truly captivating 'Man in a Hurry' is one of my own personal highlights and then the album rounds out with the excellent composition, and subtle expressions found throughout his guitar work on 'Our Lady of the Desert.' [Oh, and keep the CD in as there's a lovely bonus track!]

Amazon Purchase Link

Title - '... Presents Abbey Road and the Beatles'
Artist - Bob Baldwin

Bob Baldwin’s multifarious ‘gushings’ of the Beatles began in the sixties as a young lad living in the urban surroundings of Yonkers and Mount Vernon, NY before eventually moving further up the Hudson River.

In both regions; however, was one of the power radio stations of the universe. WABC Radio (New York City), with golden voices like Cousin Brucie, Harry Harrison and Dan Ingram, were playing the pop hits of their time in the 60’s and 70’s.

It was there where the New York Pianist/Arranger caught that infamous ‘Beatles Bug’ that had obviously swept the United States ... truly a British Invasion.

That bug is now in full-effect with 10 catchy Beatles tracks suitable for jazz piano here on the just-released '... Presents Abbey Road and the Beatles (released via Red River.)

1. 'Come Together (Can We All Just Get Along?)'
2. '(Mellow) Yellow Submarine'
3. 'And I Love Her (Real Talk)'
4. '(Don't Wanna Be) The Fool On The Hill'
5. 'Imagine (Living As One)'
6. 'Michelle (My Girl)'
7. 'Something (In The Way She Moves)'
8. 'My Love'
9. 'Abbey Road'
10. 'Yesterday (Remixed)'
11. 'Eleanor Rigby'
12. 'Something (In The Way She Moves)' (Vocal Version)

First up is a laid back 'Come Together (Can We All Just Get Along?),' which is backed seamlessly by both a brilliantly-titled piano piece '(Mellow) Yellow Submarine' and then one of my own favorite cuts, the upbeat joyous tones of 'And I Love Her (Real Talk).'

Featuring the always-lovely-to-hear CeCe Peniston, a splendid '(Don't Wanna Be) The Fool On The Hill,' with Euge Groove featured on a saxlicious 'Imagine (Living As One).'

'Michelle (My Girl)' featuring Ragan Whiteside is yet another delightful piano piece and is followed by another of my favorites, the free flowing instrumental 'Something (In The Way She Moves).'

A duo of guest spots for Lori Williams begin with a sultry R&B re-imagining of 'My Love,' and then bleeds lovingly into a tonally different 'Abbey Road.'

'Yesterday (Remixed)' is a playfully funky piano delight and then the album rounds out with 'Eleanor Rigby' and a vocal version of 'Something (In The Way She Moves).'

Amazon Purchase Link

Title - 'The Big Kiss: Deluxe Edition'
Artist - Thereza Bazar

For those not in the know, Thereza Bazar made her name first with '70s act Guys 'N' Dolls and then, alongside David Van Day, as one half of '70s/'80s Pop sensations Dollar (who scored numerous hits across the first half of the decade).

The Canadian-born, British-based singer then made a solo album, entitled The Big Kiss, for MCA in 1985, produced by the legendary Arif Mardin at Atlantic Studios. The Big Kiss includes the singles ‘The Big Kiss’ and ‘Too Much In Love’ and adds the non-album single ‘Gotcha’, the theme from the US comedy movie of the same name.

This highly impressive new package boasts 19 bonus tracks, many of them previously unissued, with the entire album in 12″ format on disc 2 (which is a true first in my line of work!), as well as previously unissued demos.

Also containing detailed liner notes, and track-by- track commentary, this Deluxe Edition of her solo album is as perfect now as it is ever going to get.

CD 1: The Big Kiss
1. 'The Big Kiss'
2. 'I See It in Your Eyes'
3. 'Too Much in Love'
4. 'English Girl (Should Not No! No!)'
5. 'Give Me Back My Heart'
6. 'Never Make the Same Mistake'
7. 'Traitor of the Heart'
8. 'Save Me'
9. 'Give Yourself Up'
10. 'You're All I Ever Wanted'
11. Gotcha'
12. Right or Wrong' (Demo)
13. Touch Sensitive' (Demo)
14. Traitor of the Heart' (Demo)
15. You're All I Ever Wanted' (Demo)
16. Traitor of the Heart' (7" Mix)
17. The Big Kiss' (7" Mix)
18. The Big Kiss' (Arif Mardin Special New Mix)

CD 2: Extra Kisses
1. 'The Big Kiss' (PWL Extended Version)
2. 'I See It in Your Eyes' (Dance Mix)
3. 'Too Much in Love' (Smooch Mix)
4. 'English Girl (Should Not No! No!)' (Extreme Mix)
5. 'Give Me Back My Heart' (Extended Version)
6. 'Never Make the Same Mistake' (Extended Version)
7. 'Traitor of the Heart' (Dance Mix)
8. 'Save Me' (Stretch Mix)
9. 'Give Yourself Up' (The Go Mix)
10. 'You're All I Ever Wanted' (Extended Version)
11. 'Traitor of the Heart' (Domination Remix)

Kicking things off with the lead cut itself, 'The Big Kiss,' just listening to it again after all these years flashes me right back to an era when I was head over heels n love with the more beautiful half of Dollar!

Oh, and for those not in the know, their hits started with the uber catchy 'Shooting Star' in 1978 and they went on and had several other big hits; including 'Love's Gotta Hold on Me' (1979), the brilliant 'Mirror Mirror' (1981), 'Give Me Back My Heart' (1982), and then 'Oh L'amour' - which hit the Top 10 across Europe in 1987.

Anyway, back on Bazar track and each track here is a beloved sound of an era long since gone. The album reportedly cost half a million pounds to produce and generated media attention, but according to Bazar, the album's circulation was poor due to a mix-up at the record company; with the album unavailable at the time of its advertised release.

That certainly explains why it wasn't as big a hit as it should have been because coupled with some brilliant pop dance tunes and a very beautiful, very sexy front lady, the album should have definitely done a lot more chart damage across the world than it did.

The second disc holds the entire album, but in remix and extended forms and I think that's rather lovely to behold, in truth. Never have I come across such a thing and for that I applaud Cherry Red Records wholeheartely.

2CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Manage The Damage: 3CD Expanded Edition'
Artist - Jimmy Somerville

For those not in the know, Jimmy Somerville is a Scottish pop singer and songwriter who sang in the 1980s with the pop groups Bronski Beat and The Communards, and who has also had a solo career.

Indeed, he is well known, in particular, for his powerful and soulful countertenor/falsetto singing voice.

Openly gay, many of his songs contain political commentary on gay-related issues such as the massive chart hit by Bronksi Beat, 'Smalltown Boy'.

Jimmy Somerville’s third solo album, 1999’s Manage The Damage was his first as an independent artist after splitting with London Records in 1995 after twelve years of recording with them both as a solo artist and with bands Bronski Beat and Communards.

This is the first ever Expanded Edition of this album and, developed in conjunction with Jimmy’s management, with its 43 tracks over three discs, celebrates both the album and all of its associated singles.

All the B-sides and a wealth of dance floor remixes are included herein. The deluxe packaging includes a comprehensive 32 page booklet insert containing song lyrics, a treasury of promotional photos from the period and a detailed essay on the album and its sensibilities written by ‘Andy Bell is Torsten’ playwright Barney Ashton.

The album was a songwriting and production collaboration with Sally Herbert (Banderas, Communards) who was, at the time, Jimmy’s flat-mate; the album was mostly written in their home studio on the then emergent new songwriting technology Pro Tools.

Jimmy’s first independent release after his London Records era had been the 1997 re-record, and remixes thereof, of ‘Safe’, a favorite song of Jimmy’s from his previous solo album ‘Dare To Love’ that he had originally recorded for London Records as the album track ‘Safe In These Arms’.

These tracks were, however, not released in the UK at the time and this expanded edition collects together the best of those remixes of ‘Safe,’ as well.

Jimmy’s new found freedom enabled him to write his most nuanced, honest and direct album; the lyrics deal with the fallout from domestic violence, the fallacy of imposition of religious morality, prostitution, the optimism generated by the new ‘combination therapies’ in the treatment of HIV; and, as always with Jimmy, Manage The Damage is a heartfelt celebration, and promotion of, homosexual sensibilities, social activism and love.

CD 1: Manage The Damage
1. 'HERE I AM'
4. 'MY LIFE'
9. 'EVE'
10. 'STONE'
12. 'BLAME'
18. 'SAFE' (TODD TERRY 7″)
19. 'DARK SKY ’98'

CD 2: 'Club Root Beer' - The Dance Remixes
6. 'SAFE (DJ TONKA 12″)'

CD 3: 'Club Root Beer' - Further Remixes Plus
8. 'SAFE (TODD TERRY 12”)'
13. 'SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR' – With The Melbourne Gay & Lesbian Chorus

As we should all know by now, Jimmy Somerville is an artist who has always expertly incorporated disco/'70s style of music into the dance and EBM genre (like the lounge singer meets a modern Donna Summer).

His voice flows with today's dance and electronica. A welcome soloist in the tradition of The Pet Shop Boys, but much more layered and enriched with his falsetto vocal ranges.

Only the British could produce an operatic quality male singer as the getting older - but still with vision - Jimmy Somerville. A tenor with euro disco in his blood, this album was flawless when it first came out (in my humble opinion) and has just been made INCREDIBLE now by Cherry Red Records.

Indeed, Jimmy proves with ALL of these tracks that he's got something to live for (sorry, if you caught that, but I couldn't help myself) and that due to how great the songs sound, this must have been a love passion for him to have recorded in the studio.

A beautiful man with unmatched vocals and talent, Manage The Damage may well be coming out here as a 3CD Expanded Edition, but talking honestly, those second and third discs are only four (4) tracks that have been stretched, remixed, alienated, and more into 24 songs for our listening pleasure!

Ergo, this wondrous first disc of 19 tracks is the true gold here for me as they blend together to represent that period of time just so damn well. It truly is a massive album and now to have it back and expanded is joy beyond all joy, my friends.

3CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Viva: 2CD Expanded Edition'
Artist - Bananarama

For those not in the know, Bananarama are an English female pop music vocal group formed in London in 1981 by friends Sara Dallin, Siobhan Fahey and Keren Woodward.

Their success on both pop and dance charts has earned them a listing in the Guinness World Records as the all-female group with the most chart entries in the world. Between 1982 and 2009, they had 28 singles reach the Top 50 of the UK Singles Chart.

The group's 10 UK Top 10 hits include "It Ain't What You Do..." (1982), "Really Saying Something" (1982), "Shy Boy" (1982), "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" (1983), "Cruel Summer" (1983), "Robert De Niro's Waiting..." (1984), "Venus" (1986) and "Love in the First Degree" (1987).

In 1986, they had a U.S. number one with another of their UK Top 10 hits, a cover of "Venus". In total, they had 11 singles reach the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 (1983–88), including two more in the Top 10, with "Cruel Summer" (1984) and "I Heard a Rumour" (1987).

They are associated with the MTV-driven Second British Invasion of the US,[2] and featured on the 1984 Band Aid single, "Do They Know It's Christmas?". They topped the Australian ARIA albums chart in June 1988 with Wow! (1987), and earned Brit Award nominations for Best British Single for "Love in the First Degree", and Best Music Video for their 1988 hit cover of The Supremes single "Nathan Jones".

Fahey left the group in 1988 and formed Shakespears Sister, best known for the UK number one "Stay" (1992). She was replaced by Jacquie O'Sullivan. This line-up had UK top five hits with "I Want You Back" (1988) and The Beatles track "Help!" (1989), recorded with comedy duo French and Saunders for the charity Comic Relief. In 1989 they embarked on their first world tour.

After O'Sullivan's 1991 departure, Dallin and Woodward continued Bananarama as a duo, with hits including "Movin' On" (1992), "More, More, More" (1993) and "Move in My Direction" (2005).

Fahey rejoined Bananarama in 2017 and they toured the UK in November/December 2017 and North America in February 2018. They performed their final dates as a trio in August 2018.

CD 1: Viva - The Original Album, Bonus Tracks & Edits
1. 'Love Comes'
2. 'Love Don't Live Here'
3. 'Rapture'
4. 'Seventeen'
5. 'Twisting'
6. 'Tell Me Tomorrow'
7. 'The Runner'
8. 'Extraordinary'
9. 'Dum Dum Boy'
10. 'S-S-S-Single Bed'
11. 'We've Got the Night'
12. 'The Sound of Silence'
13. 'Run to You'
14. 'Love Comes (Radio Edit)'
15. 'Love Don't Live Here (Radio Mix)'
16. 'Love Comes (Riff & Rhys Radio Mix)'
17. 'The Runner (Buzz Junkies 7" Mix)'
18. 'Love Comes (Wideboys Club Edit)'
19. 'Love Comes (Wideboys A-Mix)'

CD 2: Viva - The Extended Dance Remixes & Original Singles' Bonus Tracks
1. 'Love Comes (Ian Masterson's Extended Mix)'
2. 'Love Don't Live Here (Ian Masterson's Extended Mix)'
3. 'Love Comes (Wideboys Club Mix)'
4. 'The Runner (Buzz Junkies 12" Mix)'
5. 'Love Comes (Riff & Rhys Club Mix)'
6. 'Here Comes the Rain' 8. 'Tokyo Joe'
9. 'Cruel Summer '09'
10. 'Every Shade of Blue '10'
11. 'Love Comes (Wideboys Dub)'

Bananarama’s tenth studio album, 2009’s Viva, remains their most electro sounding collection to date. It was a collaboration with celebrated producer, composer, songwriter and remixer Ian Masterson, whose credits include work with Girls Aloud, Kylie Minogue and the Pet Shop Boys.

His instinctive grasp of Bananarama’s sound, spirit and energy resulted in some monumental feel-good pop-dance music. Amongst the album’s many highlights is "Seventeen", which unfolds as an undulating, low-slung electro number with the vocals recalling the all-consuming thrill of first time love.

There’s also the seductive vibe of the track "Extraordinary" and the unforgettable lead single "Love Comes", an out and out celebratory dancefloor smash!

The album is a veritable masterclass in melodic, upbeat pop. It was also the album on which Sara and Keren both started to play bass guitar again after a 17 year break!

Indeed, Viva originated as a discofied cover versions album, but Sara and Keren changed their mind on this approach half way through recording, in response to their, then, record company actively preferring their original compositions to the array of disco styled cover versions.

Just three of these originally chosen cover versions made it through to the final track listing of Viva. "Rapture" had been originally recorded by trance act iiO in 2001 and had been both a dance floor and chart smash hit throughout Europe and the United States.

The second cover version included was Bananarama’s inventive take on the 1978 disco classic "The Runner" by The Three Degrees and an earlier pop track "S-S-S-Single Bed" from 1976 was the last cover version selected. This had originally been recorded by Fox.

Four additional cover version rarities, originally made available as either bonus download only album tracks or as B-sides on the related singles, have also been included in this soon-to-be released deluxe Expanded Edition via Cherry Red Records.

These were "Voyage, Voyage", the 1986 worldwide, anthemic, Europop hit by French singer Desireless; Bryan Adams’ pop/rock classic "Run To You" from 1984; the Simon and Garfunkel folk-pop songbook standard "The Sound Of Silence", first released by them in 1965, and Bryan Ferry’s 1977 single and solo album track "Tokyo Joe".

All of these tracks can be found on this comprehensive 30 track 2 disc Expanded Edition of Viva along with all the commercially available remixes, and edits thereof, that were released across the various formats of both of the album’s two singles; "Love Comes" and "Love Don’t Live Here".

Also included is the promotional Buzz Junkies dance remix and edit of the album cut, the girl’s deftly executed re-work of The Three Degrees track "The Runner" - as originally co-written by Sheila Ferguson and the legendary disco producer Giorgio Moroder.

As for the original album, Viva well, in truth, Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward found a perfect foil in Ian Masterson; a producer whose credits range from Pet Shop Boys to Girls Aloud and whose instinctive grasp of the Bananarama spirit resulted in some extraordinarily good music on this album.

"Seventeen" is an undulating, low-slung electro number which pleads "kiss me like you do in my dreams, make me feel like I was seventeen", then there's the seductive, ice-cold "Extraordinary" and the single "Love Comes" - a dancefloor belter with no strings attached.

I mean, come on now, at no point do Bananarama EVER disappoint! Viva is definitely the girls at their dancefloor best and clearly affirmed (at the time and now) their status as one of the best girl groups ... ever!

Oh, and this lovely new release also comes with a richly illustrated 20 page booklet including an introductory message from Sara and Keren.

2CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Drama: 3CD Expanded Edition'
Artist - Bananarama

For those not in the know, Bananarama are an English female pop music vocal group formed in London in 1981 by friends Sara Dallin, Siobhan Fahey and Keren Woodward.

Their success on both pop and dance charts has earned them a listing in the Guinness World Records as the all-female group with the most chart entries in the world. Between 1982 and 2009, they had 28 singles reach the Top 50 of the UK Singles Chart.

The group's 10 UK Top 10 hits include "It Ain't What You Do..." (1982), "Really Saying Something" (1982), "Shy Boy" (1982), "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" (1983), "Cruel Summer" (1983), "Robert De Niro's Waiting..." (1984), "Venus" (1986) and "Love in the First Degree" (1987).

In 1986, they had a U.S. number one with another of their UK Top 10 hits, a cover of "Venus". In total, they had 11 singles reach the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 (1983–88), including two more in the Top 10, with "Cruel Summer" (1984) and "I Heard a Rumour" (1987).

They are associated with the MTV-driven Second British Invasion of the US,[2] and featured on the 1984 Band Aid single, "Do They Know It's Christmas?". They topped the Australian ARIA albums chart in June 1988 with Wow! (1987), and earned Brit Award nominations for Best British Single for "Love in the First Degree", and Best Music Video for their 1988 hit cover of The Supremes single "Nathan Jones".

Fahey left the group in 1988 and formed Shakespears Sister, best known for the UK number one "Stay" (1992). She was replaced by Jacquie O'Sullivan. This line-up had UK top five hits with "I Want You Back" (1988) and The Beatles track "Help!" (1989), recorded with comedy duo French and Saunders for the charity Comic Relief. In 1989 they embarked on their first world tour.

After O'Sullivan's 1991 departure, Dallin and Woodward continued Bananarama as a duo, with hits including "Movin' On" (1992), "More, More, More" (1993) and "Move in My Direction" (2005).

Fahey rejoined Bananarama in 2017 and they toured the UK in November/December 2017 and North America in February 2018. They performed their final dates as a trio in August 2018.

CD 1: Drama + Original Bonus Tracks
1. 'Move in My Direction'
2. 'Look on the Floor (Hypnotic Tango)'
3. 'Waterfall'
4. 'Frequency'
5. 'Feel for You'
6. 'Don't Step on My Groove'
7. 'Middle of Nowhere'
8. 'I Love the Way'
9. 'Lovebite'
10. 'Rules of Attraction'
11. 'Your Love Is Like a Drug'
12. 'Live in the Sun'
13. 'Venus (Marc Almond's Hi-Nrg Showgirls Mix)'
14. 'Really Saying Something (Solasso Mix)'

CD 2: Drama - The Full Length Dance Remixes
1. 'Move in My Direction (Bobby Blanco & Miki Moto Vocal Mix)'
2. 'Look on the Floor (Hypnotic Tango) (Solasso Remix)'
3. 'Move in My Direction (The Lovefreekz Club Mix)'
4. 'Look on the Floor (Hypnotic Tango) (Soul Seekerz Remix)'
5. 'Move in My Direction (Angel City Club Remix)'
6. 'Look on the Floor (Hypnotic Tango) (Angel City Extended Remix)' 8. 'Look on the Floor (Hypnotic Tango) (Yomanda Remix)'
9. 'Move in My Direction (Pat the Cat Ibiza Mix)'
10. 'Move in My Direction (Redanka's Fascination Instrumental)'

CD 3: Drama - Remix Edits & Dub Remixes
1. 'Move in My Direction (Angel City Remix Edit)'
2. 'Look on the Floor (Hypnotic Tango) (Angel City Short Mix)'
3. 'Move in My Direction (Bobby Blanco & Miki Moto Vocal Edit)'
4. 'Move in My Direction (The Lovefreekz Radio Edit)'
5. 'Move in My Direction (Pat the Cat Edit)'
6. 'Look on the Floor (Hypnotic Tango) (Solasso Remix Dub)'
7. 'Move in My Direction (The Lovefreekz Dub)' 9. 'Move in My Direction (Angel City Dub)'
10. 'Look on the Floor (Hypnotic Tango) (Yomanda Dub Remix)'
11. 'Move in My Direction (Bobby Blanco & Miki Moto Dub)'
12. 'Move in My Direction (Pat the Cat Dub)'

The first ever expanded edition of Bananarama’s ninth studio album, 2005’s Drama, includes all the commercially released club remixes, edits and dubs of its two singles as well as the original album’s bonus tracks and a non-album CD Single ‘B’-side, ‘Live In The Sun’ to complete this comprehensive 3 disc celebration.

Lead single ‘Move In My Direction’ put Bananarama back in the UK singles charts for the first time in 12 years reaching #14 in August 2005, then their dancefloor smash, a re-versioning of classic Italo Disco track ‘Look On The Floor (Hypnotic Tango)’ gave them a #26 hit just 3 months later.

Drama was also the first album to be released in Bananarama’s native UK for 12 years, heralding a British ‘comeback’ of sorts!

The album, an upbeat electro-pop blend of elements of 70s disco and contemporary electronica, also employed a number of top end collaborators.

Bananarama worked with a select team of world renowned producers and songwriters, including Ian Masterson, Mute8 and Sweden’s Murlyn; a production team that created an album of eleven newly recorded electropop tracks that were originally released with two bonus tracks re-instated herewith; Marc Almond’s Hi-NRG remix of a version of their 1986 smash hit ‘Venus’ and an all new remix of a version of their 1982 hit, ‘Really Saying Something’ – which had been an underground club hit produced by Solasso.

As for the original album, Drama most assuredly marked a departure in the type of music that Bananarama recorded. Whereas, prior to 2005, they were known as pop artists, with the release of Drama they reinvented themselves into contemporary EDM dance artists.

In my opinion, the best track on the album is "Look On the Floor (Hypnotic Tango)" and is, quite possibly, one of the best songs they have ever recorded over their 30+ years as a recording act.

The whole album is just chock loaded with catchy rhythms, dance grooves and other exciting twists within the 11 original album songs! Steering, as mentioned, more toward the electronica sound, everything on Drama is a genuine musical highlight to behold, love and dance to.

Personal stand out cuts for me include: 'Move In My Direction,' which is fun pop and this very addictive to catch the rhythm of (plus, oh my, what a sexy video!); the retro sound (even then) of 'Lovebite'; and here on this brilliant 3CD Expanded Edition, 'Really Saying Something (Solasso Mix)' - which is much better than the also-included Venus' remix. Solasso and Bananarama = match made in Heaven!

I mean, come on now, at no point do Bananarama EVER disappoint! Drama is definitely the girls at their dancefloor EDM best and clearly affirmed (at the time and now) their status as one of the best girl groups ... ever!

Oh, and this deluxe packaged re-issue, comes with a full color 20 page lyric and photo booklet including a specially written introduction from Keren and Sara.

3CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Harmony In Diversity: The Complete Recordings'
Artist - Peter Banks

For those not in the know, Peter Banks was one of the original members of Yes and an accomplished guitarist, but sadly passed away in 2013.

This incredible 6CD set, Peter Banks's Harmony In Diversity: The Complete Recordings is being released in his memory, by his Estate, during the fifth anniversary of his passing and the 50th Anniversary of Yes.

This is the first ever mainstream release of the Harmony in Diversity recordings:

CD 1: Struggles Discontinued
1. 'The Number of the Beat'
2. 'Swing It'
3. 'On the Sixth Attempt They Trod on It'
4. 'Inversible Flaw'
5. Last Run for the Empire'
6. 'Harmogeny A'
7. 'Dregs Addiction'
8. 'Harmogeny B'
9. 'Everything Ends in Nothing'

CD 2: What Is This?
1. 'Lots and Lots of Disjoint Dots'
2. 'Plenty to Hear in Orbit'
3. 'Each to Their Own Devices'
4. 'Procyon B'

CD 3: Trying
1. 'No Harm'
2. 'After You'
3. 'Mind the Doors'
4. 'Swayed By Nothing'
5. 'The Klincher'
6. 'Sods at Odds' (Bonus)

CD 4: Try Again
1. 'Prelusion'
2. 'Some Things Are Best Left Upside Down'
3. 'Everything Is Green'
4. 'Cracking'
5. 'Almighty Dog'
6. 'Try Again'
7. 'Over'

CD 5: Hitting The Fans (Live)
1. 'Tropical Moon'
2. 'Out of the Garage'
3. 'Forecasting An Indian Summer'
4. 'Procyon a'
5. 'Industrial Powder Washing'
6. 'The Consequence of Going Nuts'
7. 'Dystopian Workshop'
8. 'Gallopsiding'
9. 'Not Over Yet'

CD 6: Spontaneous Creation
1. 'Budanopest'
2. 'One Night in Budapest'
3. 'Wizz Bang Crash'
4. 'Sitting on the Buffalo'
5. 'Bruno'
6. 'Floating World'
7. 'Now Now'
8. 'Do It Now'
9. 'Where's Jamie?'
10. 'Boing'
11. 'Looking Forward'

The set features all the recordings of the band and has been overseen and mixed by Andrew Booker and Nick Cottam with the additional approval of Dave "Jick" Speight who appeared on the final disc of the set.

And the reason for that is that most of the tracks are by the trio of Banks (guitar), Nick Cottam (bass), and Andrew Booker (acoustic/electric drums/programming), although Disc 6 substitutes Dave Speight for Booker on drums.

The first disc is entitled Struggles Discontinued and features nine tracks from 2005-06. Chock full of wonderful Banks guitar work, not forgetting some rather distinctive bass and drum work, these were the first recordings by the trio.

Next up is What Is This?, which is, to be sure, is a recording from a session held in 2005 and was scheduled to be the group's first album. Featuring only Banks and Booker all the tracks are admittedly long, which enables each one of them to ramble into musical areas previously not explored; one imagines.

Next up is Trying, also from 2005, which features the trio. It also allows for each of the six tracks to bleeds seamlessly into one another, inclusive of a live track in the form of 'The Klincher' and a guitar-led bonus track, 'Sods At Odds.'

The fourth disc is a continuation of the previous one, the equally brilliant Try Again, also from 2005. It's been said that this was only the second time they had actually played together, but listening to it today, well, you would never have guessed.

Hitting The Fans (Live) is next and, as suggested in the title, is a live appearance of the trio in 2006 with all nine tracks in chronological order. A completely perfect performance of free-form jamming at its finest by the trio, tracks such as both 'Tropical Moon' and 'Procyon A' showcase Banks' proficiency on guitar splendidly.

Lastly we are treated to Spontaneous Creation from 2006-07. Featuring what can only be described as works of spontaneous jamming art (with new drummer Speight included), Banks is, yet again in fine form.

Highlighted, amongst other, within the confines of such beauties as the opener 'Budanopest' and 'Wizz Bang Crash,' his more intense guitar playing truly expresses itself on a track such as the wondrous 'Floating World.'

The set also features new artwork, an extensive booklet and the audio has received a 2018 remaster.

6CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Phenomena: I, II, & III' [Definitive Editions]
Artist - Phenomena

For those not in the know, Phenomena is a rock music concept formed by record producer Tom Galley and brother, Whitesnake guitarist Mel Galley.

During the recording of their debut, Phenomena they were joined by Metalhammer founder Wilfried Rimensberger with other contributors along the way being such notables as leading rock musicians Glenn Hughes, Brian May, and John Wetton, amongst others.

In fact, Phenomena's production of rock songs based on a story line running through a whole album, attached to artworks and other multi-media aspects was credited for the “return of the concept album” in the 1980s.

Phenomena released three albums in the 1980s and early 1990s, and had a number one hit single in South America with 'Did It All For Love,' while the album charted across Europe, in Japan and Brazil.

Now all three Phenomena albums are being re-released as Definitive Editions, which means their legion of fans can enjoy these incredible rock performances as the band themselves always intended them to.

Indeed, the creator of Phenomena, Tom Galley, said of the re-releases: “I'm happy to see the release of these original recordings. And being in touch with the involved artists, I know they are looking forward to see this happening too. Together with previously never seen material the 3 albums are well presented.”

Phenomena was their aforementioned debut in 1985 with the all-star, million selling album - created by Tom Galley - featuring the rock talents of: Glenn Hughes; Cozy Powell; Mel Galley; Neil Murray; Don Airey; Ric Sanders; John Thomas; and Ted McKenna.

1. 'Kiss Of Fire'
2. 'Still The Night'
3. 'Dance With The Devil'
4. 'Phoenix Rising'
5. 'Believe'
6. 'Who's Watching You?'
7. 'Hell On Wings'
8. 'Twilight Zone'
9. 'Phenomena'

The styling of the music is amazing, much like a mix of '70s melodies and rhythms from the '80s. Complete with atmospheric intros on many of the songs and featuring a lot of ex-Whitesnake members, it's no wonder that the album leans towards that sound - together with a tag that hung with them forever, which was they sounded like "Journey's evil cousin"!

The lyrics tend toward dark themes, while the music bounces through light and shade, hard rock and pop rock, and guitar dueling with synthesizer and, perhaps, even fiddle on 'Dance with the Devil'.

All the while the songs are loosely hung around a concept story (outlined in the liner notes). Trust me, if you like Whitesnake, Journey, and other bands of the same musical ilk, these are the albums for you, my friends.

This Definitive Edition has received a 2018 remaster and the booklet features new liner notes, including new comments from Tom Galley, who has provided the newly written track by track descriptions.

Phenomena II: Dream Runner is from 1987, once again created by Tom Galley, and features the hit single 'Did It All For Love' (which was a #1 across South America).

It also features the following studio rock musicians: John Wetton; Glenn Hughes; Mel Galley; Neil Murray; Ray Gillen; Max Bacon; Richard Bailey; Michael Sturgis; Scott Gorham; Toshihiro Niimi; John Thomas; Kyoji Yamamoto; and Leif Johansen.

1. 'Stop!'
2. 'Surrender'
3. 'Did It All for Love'
4. 'Hearts on Fire'
5. 'Jukebox'
6. 'Double 6, 55, Double 4'
7. 'No Retreat, No Surrender'
8. 'Move - You Lose!'
9. 'Emotion Mama
10. 'It Must Be Love'

With a three year gap in place, Phenomena was finally back and had brought with them a wondrous sophomore album, Dream Runner. Featuring a largely different group of rock musicians to aid them this time, the fluid approach to their work obviously didn't faze them as the follow-up album was a' rockin'!

On the debut, Glenn Hughes took vocal command of the tracks, but here he only performs on three, with the late John Wetton (Asia), Ray Gillen (Black Sabbath/Badlands) and Max Bacon (GTR) splitting the remaining seven between them.

Interestingly enough, at that time, Murray was actually part of the Japanese metal outfit Vow Wow, and so their guitarist Kyoji Yamamoto and drummer Toshihiro Nimmi also got on board with the Galley project.

What we got here this time were a tighter set of tracks, more melodic overall, to be honest, but nonetheless ruthless in their fan-pleasing aspects.

The album opens with the brilliant 'Stop!' from Gillen, whilst Hughes takes the mic for 'Surrender.' Sounding like a great Asia cut, Wetton's only venture to the mic is the melodic harmonies of 'Did It All For Love,' and remains one of my all-time Phenomena favorites.

Hughes is back for 'Hearts On Fire,' but its the distinctive vocals of Bacon on 'Jukebox' that makes this one of the stand out cuts, that's for sure. The '80s rock of both 'Double 6, 55, Double 4' and Gillen on 'No Retreat, No Surrender' is still great to hear (especially on the ballad 'It Must Be Love').

The booklet features new liner notes, including new comments from Tom Galley, along with alternative artwork and rare pictures. The album cover is by Tim Davies (Tim Elcoch).

Phenomena III: Innervision from 1993 completes the all-star Phenomena trilogy, as created by Tom Galley, and features a much smaller army of willing and able rockers: Brian May; Scott Gorham; Michael Sturgis; Keith Murrell; and Leif Johansen.

Six years had now passed for Phenomena by the time their third album, Innervision, had been created. Featuring not as many guest rock musicians as previously he had, Galley this time opted for just a small handful.

Still, this enabled more playing time for the guitar Gods Brian May and Thin Lizzy's very own Scott Gorham to wreck musically perfected havoc on the 10 song collection.

1. 'Rock House'
2. 'Banzai'
3. 'What About Love?'
4. 'Into the Fire'
5. 'A Whole Lotta Love'
6. 'Secret of Love'
7. 'If You Want to Rock'
8. 'How Much Do You Love Me?'
9. 'Shape It Up'
10. 'Rock My Soul'

Returning from previous Phenomena concepts was drummer Michael Sturgis with keyboardist Leif Johansen also joining in when necessary. But, for the first time in the trilogy, there were no Glenn Hughes vocals on the album, something that Airrace singer Keith Murrell stood in for.

They open with the Foreigner-esque 'Rock House' with the Alcatrazz-esuq '80s synth in play on 'Banzai' backing it. The mid-tempo Journey-esque ballad 'What About Love?' (complete with Brian May’s undeniable contribution) is next and is backed by the delicious rocker 'Into The fire', with the slow-mo, Cliff Richard-esque ballad 'A Whole Lot Of Love' along next.

The rock is turned back up once more for both 'Secret Of Love' and the stand out cut from the album, for me, the anthemic 'If You Want To Rock' along next. The album then rounds out with the pop rock sensibility of 'How Much Do You Love Me?', the finger-snappin' John Parr-esque 'Shape It Up,' and then the stirring rock ballad 'Rock My Soul.'

The booklet features new liner notes, including new comments from Tom Galley, who has supplied the originally intended front cover artwork, which appears for the very first time ever!

'Phenomena' (Definitive Edition) CD Purchase Link

'Phenomena II: Dream Runner' (Definitive Edition) CD Purchase Link

'Phenomena III: Innervision' (Definitive Edition) CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Excalibur: The Ladies of the Lake'
Artist - Alan Simon

For those not in the know, Alan Simon is a French folk-rock musician and composer, best known for his rock operas performed with noted rock musicians guesting.

Simon is associated with Breton Celticism, and his most ambitious works are typically on themes linked to Celtic myth and history. Indeed, Simon has also branched out into film-making.

Simon achieved fame with his rock opera Excalibur, La Légende des Celtes (Excalibur, The Legend of the Celts) (Sony) in 1999, of which he was both songwriter and producer.

The first part of an intended trilogy, Excalibur blended musical styles and was performed by Roger Hodgson (ex-Supertramp), Fairport Convention, Dan Ar Braz, Tri Yann, Angelo Branduardi, Didier Lockwood and Gabriel Yacoub.

Within weeks, the album went top 10 and gold in France. Five concert performances took place between October 1999 and June 2000, including one at Paris-Bercy.

A live recording, released as Excalibur, le concert mythique (Excalibur, the legendary concert) (CD and DVD) was recorded at the first performance in Rennes, October 12, 1999.

In 2007, Simon released the second part of Excalibur, Excalibur II, l'anneau des Celtes (Excalibur II, the ring of the Celts) with contributions from Jon Anderson (Yes), Alan Parsons, Barclay James Harvest, Maddy Prior, Jacqui McShee, John Wetton, Justin Hayward, Flook, Karan Casey, Fairport Convention, Andreas Vollenweider and Martin Barre.

Simon's novel, Excalibur, le cercle de Dragon (Excalibur, the circle of Dragon), was released in March 2008. A second volume was published in October 2009 called Excalibur, la prophétie de Merlin (Excalibur, The prophecy of Merlin).

On May 25 and July 25, 2009 Excalibur was revived in Germany under the English language title Excalbur: the Celtic Rock Opera. It was performed in English with a German narration. It was performed before 19,000 people at Castle Kaltenberg.

Following this surprising success, Excalibur toured throughout Germany and 100,000 spectators attended the Celtic rock opera, reuniting nearly 160 musicians and almost as many technicians. A new tour began in January 2011 across Europe.

The so-called final part of the trilogy, Excalibur III The Origins (Excalibur III: The Origins), was released in 2012, but unexpectedly, a fourth part was then released (The Dark Age of the Dragon) in the Celtic Rock Opera series in 2016.

That said, here in 2018 and The Ladies of the Lake (out now via Babaika Productions/Cherry Red Records)is the first themed compilation of the gold and platinum selling Excalibur series of Celtic Rock albums.

The compilation showcases the female led studio songs from the catalogue and features the guests: Moya Brennan, Maddy Prior, Karan Casey, Kohann, Siobhan Owen, Jacqui McShee, Nikki Matheson, Sonja Kristina, and Maite Itoiz.

1) 'The Origins' (feat MOYA BRENNAN)
2) 'Secret Garden' (feat MADDY PRIOR)
3) 'The Girl & the Demon' (feat KARAN CASEY)
4) 'Skye' (feat KOHANN)
5) 'Calling For You' (feat MOYA BRENNAN)
6) 'The Last Lament of a Fairy' (feat SIOBHAN OWEN)
7) 'There is Someone' (feat SIOBHAN OWEN)
8) 'Silver Moon' (feat MOYA BRENNAN)
9) 'Yseult' (feat SIOBHAN OWEN)
10) 'Sacrifice' (feat JACQUI MCSHEE)
11) 'A Prayer For My Lover' (feat SIOBHAN OWEN)
12) 'Morning Song' (feat NIKKI MATHESON)
13) 'The Passion' (feat SONJA KRISTINA)
14) 'Dreaming Again' (feat SIOBHAN OWEN)
15) 'Dun Angus' (feat MAITE ITOIZ)

The Excalibur albums combine symphonic, Celtic, pop and rock influences. Rather than traditional folk music, The Ladies of the Lake focuses on songs that have a wider commercial appeal, between pop and light classical with Celtic music touches.

Ergo, The Ladies of the Lake presents a superb group of highly expressive women with distinctive vocal skills.

The creator of Excalibur, Alan Simon, said of the compilation: “Since for creation of the first Excalibur album, it’s been a privilege to work with so many strong ladies characters. I speak not just of Guinevere and Morgane, but also of the talented singers who have brought some of the roles to life.”

The compilation follows the re-release of the Excalibur Trilogy, and the recently released fourth album, Excalibur IV: The Dark Age of the Dragon.

Alan Simon continues, "The rock genre is often dominated by so many male musicians, but it shouldn’t be forgotten how much Moya, Jacqui, Maddy, Karan, Kohann, Nikki, Sonja, Siobhan and Maite have given of their unique musical talents."

"This compilation is a tribute to them for they are the Ladies of the Lake. The Ladies of Excalibur."

CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Focus 11'
Artist - Focus

For those not in the know, Focus are a Dutch rock band formed in Amsterdam in 1969 by keyboardist, vocalist, and flautist Thijs van Leer.

The band have undergone numerous formations in its history; since December 2016 it has comprised van Leer, drummer Pierre van der Linden, guitarist Menno Gootjes, and bassist Udo Pannekeet.

Past members include guitarist Jan Akkerman, drummer Hans Cleuver and bassists Martijn Dresden, Bert Ruiter and Bobby Jacobs. They have sold one million RIAA-certified albums in the United States.

After the addition of Akkerman to van Leer's rock trio in late 1969, the band named themselves Focus and were the pit band for the Dutch production of the rock musical Hair.

Their debut album Focus Plays Focus (1970) gained little attention, but their follow-up album Moving Waves (1971), and its lead single "Hocus Pocus", earned the band international recognition.

Their success continued with Focus 3 (1972) and Hamburger Concerto (1974), the former containing their second hit single, "Sylvia". After two additional albums recorded with various musicians, Focus dissolved in 1978. They reunited in 1985, 1990, 1998 and 2002.

In 2002, van Leer reformed Focus with a new line-up. The albums Focus 8 (2002), Focus 9 / New Skin (2006) and Focus X (2012) were well received, and Focus continue to perform worldwide; their most recent album is Focus 11 (2019).

They received a renewed interest after Nike used "Hocus Pocus" in its 2010 World Cup commercial Write The Future. Focus remain one of the most successful and influential rock bands from the Netherlands.

And the aforementioned new album, Focus 11 is exactly why we are here today, ladies and gentleman. Releasing this February 8th, 2019 via the brilliantly-named In And Out Of Focus Records, the (of course) 11 track album is, for sure, one of their best, well-rounded and complete albums to date (in my humble opinion).

1. 'Who's Calling?'
2. 'Heaven'
3. 'Theodora na na na'
4. 'How Many Miles?'
5. 'Mazzel'
6. 'Winnie'
7. 'Palindrome'
8. 'Clair-Obscur'
9. 'Mare Nostrum'
10. 'Final Analysis'
11. 'Focus 11'

When asked about the album, Thijs van Leer responded poetically:
"Wow, my joy could not increase
To see this new release
It has Mazzel, Palindrome and Heaven
Plus a title track called Eleven
Both angelic and a beast
It’s Focus, to say the least!"

The current line-up of Focus - which features Thijs van Leer, Pierre van der Linden, Menno Gootjes and Udo Pannekeet – completed the new studio album earlier this year and are debuting the CD edition on their November UK Tour.

The 11 track album will be released as a CD, gatefold colored LP and Download on the band’s own In And Out of Focus Records, via Cherry Red, in late January. The album features artwork by Roger Dean.

CD Purchase Link

Title - Yesterday & Today: 50th Anniversary Tribute To YES
Artist - Various

For those not in the know, Yesterday and Today is a tribute album to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the legendary prog rock band Yes.

Amongst those taking part, six members of Curved Air appear on a newly recorded full band version of "Soon" whilst current YES bass player, Billy Sherwood re-records Chris Squire's signature bass track, "The Fish."

Also, current lead singer Jon Davison performs on an "Acoustic Medley" that features the three tracks: "Your More," "And You and I," and "Wonderous Stories."

1. 'Machine Messiah' (Featuring Nick D'virgilio & Geoff Downes)
2. 'Yours Is No Disgrace' (Featuring Marisol Koss & Tony Kaye)
3. 'Turn of the Century' (Featuring Sally Minnear)
4. 'Sweetness' (Featuring Pat Sansone)
5. 'Soon' (Featuring Curved Air)
6. 'Cinema' (Featuring Steve Hackett)
7. 'Changes' (Featuring Robert Berry)
8. 'I'm Running' (Featuring Robin Schell & Marco Minnemann)
9. 'Acoustic Medley': (Featuring Jon Davison)
[Your Move, And You and I, Wonderous Stories]
10. 'Yesterday and Today' (Featuring Dr. Danny)
11. 'Long Distance Runaround' (Featuring Leslie Hunt)
12. 'The Fish' (Featuring Billy Sherwood)
13. 'Starship Trooper' (Featuring Francis Dunnery)

In truth, this 50th Anniversary tribute to YES is easily now one of my favorite albums of 2018. Chock full of wondrous music, all lovingly brought together by artists either still associated with YES or those that have been influenced by them over the years, Yesterday and Today sounds, simply put, fan-bloody-tastic!

One of the stand out tracks is Sherwood's rendition of "The Fish," another being the album closer, "Starship Trooper" performed by It Bites lead singer, Francis Dunnery. I've always loved his vocal delivery and now, as an adult in the business, he's grown into his voice and makes this song his own.

Davison takes three classic YES songs and blends them seamlessly together in his "Acoustic Medley," with other artists such as Tony Kaye, Geoff Downes, Tom Brislin and Jay Schellen all adding their very own spins on the music to hand.

So, I hear you ask, does it still sound like YES? Sure it does, albeit with a tangible slant to it, shall we say. It's like it's still obviously YES's music, sung by, maybe/perhaps YES, but with the hybrid element behind it, it kinda sorta twists the brain's perspective a wee bit, that's all.

For me, one of the true stand out highlights is Sonja Kristina's soulful and stunning vocals on "Soon." I mean, come on now, we all know she has the chops for this prog world, but my goodness, she embodies the lyrics as if they were originally written for her and her alone.

CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Zebra Crossing'
Artist - Fernando Perdomo

For those not in the know, Fernando Perdomo is an American singer-songwriter, musician, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer.

Originally from Miami Beach, Florida, he has co-produced Linda Perhacs' second album The Soul Of All Natural Things which holds the record for longest span of time between first and second records (44 years).

Zebra Crossing is the eagerly anticipated fourth full length album by Perdomo, guitarist and bassist of The Dave Kerzner Band and Jakob Dylan's Echo In The Canyon Band.

1. 'I'm Here'
2. 'Sometimes I Feel Nothing at All'
3. 'Find Love (Hold on)'
4. 'We Were Raised with Headphones On'
5. 'Somehow'
6. 'Not Meant to Be'
7. 'Smile'
8. 'Sundays'
9. 'Crown of Stars'
10. 'Home'
11. 'Zebra Crossing'
12. 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'

The album was predominantly recorded at Abbey Road Studios and features all new original titles building up to a beautiful cover of 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' featuring Diane Birch, Shawn Lee, and Jason and Daphna Rowe.

Indeed, Zebra Crossing also features songwriting collaborations with Zak Nilsson (son of Harry Nilsson), Cyndi Trissel, and Beach Boys lyricist Stephen Kalinich.

The album kicks off with the jangling guitar work of 'I'm Here' and backs that up with a more Americana feel to 'Sometimes I Feel Nothing at All,' before the first single, 'Find Love (Hold On)' (featuring Danny Ayala and Megan Zeankowski, formerly of The Lemon Twigs as well as Ken Sharp) gently comes a-knockin'.

The mid-tempo ballad 'We Were Raised with Headphones On' is one of my personal favorites, and is backed by the stoically precise guitar workings of both 'Somehow' and 'Not Meant to Be.' The piano-led beauty 'Smile' tries to be as joyous and as breezy as it sounds, but comes across purposely pained and that's followed by the laid back 'Sundays' (featuring Stephen Kalinich).

The mid-tempo, slow American roll of 'Crown of Stars' is heartfelt storytelling at its finest, and then the album comes to a close with 'Home,' the upbeat guitar work of the title track, before rounding out with the aforementioned George Harrison cover, 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' (plus guests).

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Title - 'The Second British Rock Meeting 1972'
Artist - Curved Air

For those not in the know, here's a slight recap on one of the best bands to ever musically grace the brain!

The brilliant, uber talented Curved Air are a pioneering British progressive rock group formed in 1970 by musicians from mixed artistic backgrounds, including classical, folk, and electronic sound.

The resulting sound of the band was a mixture of progressive rock, folk rock, and fusion with classical elements. However, did you know that along with High Tide and East of Eden, Curved Air were one of the first rock bands after It's a Beautiful Day and The United States of America to feature a violin.

Indeed, Curved Air released eight studio albums (the first three of which broke the UK Top 20) and had a hit single with 'Back Street Luv' (1971) which reached #4 in the UK Singles Chart.

Over the following years the band broke up several times, they were even sued by their British label Chrysalis (1974), and with jail time hovering over them due to a HUGE tax bill owed, they just managed to pay that off also.

Curved Air, as a group were largely inactive for the next three decades but in 2008 founding members Sonja Kristina, Florian Pilkington-Miksa, Daryl Way and (briefly) Francis Monkman decided to get back together after a hiatus of 32 years.

Over the next few years, the band went through a few personnel changes with signer Kristina and original drummer Pilkington-Miksa being the only original members left.

This revitalized the band, and back in 2012 they released a brand new live album, Live Atmosphere. One of my favorite albums (CD/DVD) of theirs in latter years, their music caught live was a pure, unadulterated joy to behold; as I'm sure all Curved Air fans can attest to.

Both The Curved Air Rarities Series Volume 1 / Tapestry Of Propositions and The Curved Air Rarities Series Volume 2 / Curved Space & Infinity were released in 2016, and now, here in 2018, The Second British Rock Meeting 1972 is the third volume of the Curved Air Rarities Series.

1. 'No-Guitar Blues'
2. 'Everdance / Cheetah / Vivaldi'
3. 'Phantasmagoria'
4. 'Melinda (More or Less)'
5. 'Over and Above'
6. 'The Germersheim Jam / Vivaldi (Reprise)'

The sound quality is of astonishing fidelity for a live recording from the early 1970s and features the only known recordings of this line-up improvising!

The opening track really sets the stage, no pun intended, for their performance as they are initially just trying to get situated on stage. No music from the off, it's raw '70s stage set up ... and I loved it! And once they get going into 'No-Guitar Blues,' well, settle in and enjoy the smooth ride, my friends.

The seven minute fevered brilliance of 'Everdance / Cheetah / Vivaldi' is worth the price of admission here alone and that's backed by the short, but sweet 'Phantasmagoria.'

The placid, and yet even shorter reaching vocals on 'Melinda (More or Less)' showcase Kristina's vocals to a tee, before their frenetic playing is back again on the near twelve minute 'Over and Above.'

The last track is an extended jam and a version of the band's hit Vivaldi - lasting well over 30 minutes! The band had just released it's Phantasmagoria album and the line-up was: Sonja Kristina, Darryl Way, Francis Monkman, Florian Pilkington-Miksa and Mike Wedgwood.

The booklet features a written introduction by Francis Monkman, who mastered the audio and curated the release personally, along with two essays written by attendees at the festival and previously unseen pictures.

These recordings capture a unique set from the band's heyday, their only recorded improvisations and all in unbelievable sound quality for a festival in the early '70s.

I urge you to buy this CD today, sit back, kick back, close your eyes, and drift away into the sculptured classical Prog rock land of Curved Air.

CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Ends Meeting'
Artist - David Cross & Andrew Booker

For those not in the know, David Cross was a member of King Crimson during the 1970s and Andrew Booker was a member of Sanguine Hum and Peter Banks's Harmony in Diversity.

This previously unreleased studio album, Ends Meeting was recorded in 2006 but had not seen a release until now.

The seven tracks on this album showcase the talents of Cross and Booker and will most definitely appeal to the fan-bases of both artists and the bands they have been in.

An innovative meeting of minds, they begin with the four minute electro fluidity of 'Loopscape A,' backing that up seamlessly with 'The Shakes Rattled' and one of my own personal favorites from this "new" album, the brilliantly ambiance-fed, and near-ten minute long, 'Sleek.'

The short, but sweet 'Spared Bhangra' is next and is followed by the pulsating divisibility of the flowingly powerful 'Worship The Gourds.' The longest track on the album at nearly twelve minutes is the gently stoic title track 'Ends Meeting,' and then the album comes to a close with the short book end, 'Loopscape B.'

CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Scars'
Artist - John Kilzer

For those not in the know, for all intents and purposes, John Kilzer is a virtual Renaissance man whose talent is one of remarkable breadth, a reflection of his intellect and deep-seated soulfulness.

Beyond Memphis, where he’s long resided, having moved there from Jackson TN (home of Carl Perkins), the national music community became aware of him in the late 1980s when he was signed to Geffen Records.

In the intervening years, he’s recorded a number of albums for both major and indie labels and has written songs that have been recorded and released by Roseanne Cash, Trace Adkins, Dobie Gray and Maria Muldaur, among others.

While he’s an accomplished musical entity, it should be noted that he’s been an athlete, a star forward for the Memphis State Tigers. At Memphis State he not only earned a Masters degree in English literature but also taught the subject full time for three years.

On the way to making Scars (releasing January 18th, 2019), his second album for Memphis-based Archer Records, he dealt with his own issues of substance abuse, earned a Masters of Divinity from Memphis Theological Seminary and went on to earn a PhD in religious studies from London’s Middlesex University.

Now ordained, Reverend Doctor Kilzer runs the recovery ministry at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Memphis.

1. 'Flat Bed Truck'
2. 'The American Blues'
3. 'Hello Heart'
4. 'Woods of Love'
5. 'Time'
6. 'Scars'
7. 'It'
8. 'Dark Highway'
9. 'Memphis Town'
10. 'Twinkle of Love'
11. 'Rope the Moon'

The first track is the delightful Americana storytelling of 'Flat Bed Truck' which Kilzer backs up seamlessly with both the harmonica-driven, gentle rocker 'The American Blues,' and the stirring ballad 'Hello Heart.'

Next up is the mid-tempo ballad 'Woods of Love' which is dutifully followed by the stoic piano-driven track, 'Time' and the quiet, guitar picking title track, 'Scars.'

My own favorite track on the new album is the upbeat, joyous ode to love, 'It' (which manages to sum up the feeling love brings our souls just perfectly) and that's backed by the gravel-voiced blues rocker 'Dark Highway.'

Kilzer's gentle piano effort 'Memphis Town' brings to mind Marc Cohn, whereas the breezy mid-tempo collective of sounds on 'Twinkle of Love' is yet another definite stand out track. The album then, albeit sadly, rounds out with another nod to love, this time in the form of 'Rope the Moon.'

'The American Blues' Music Video

John Kilzer @ Facebook!

Digital Purchase Link

Title - 'Neil Diamond - 50th Anniversary' (6CD Box-Set)
Artist - Neil Diamond

In celebrating 50 years of Neil Diamond as a singer songwriter, UMe/Capitol has just-released a rather magnificent 6CD retrospective spanning his entire career.

The collection features 115 tracks and contains beloved hits alongside demos, rarities and 14 previously unreleased tracks.

Furthermore, the collection is contained in a hardbound book with rare and previously unseen photos from Neil's personal archive.

CD 1:
3. I GOT THE FEELIN' (Oh No No) - Mono
4. DO IT - Mono
6. YOU GOT TO ME - Mono
8. I'M A BELIEVER - Mono
11. RED, RED WINE - Mono
19. DIG IN
24. LORDY (Live)

CD 2:
1. I AM...I SAID - Original Demo
2. I AM...I SAID
10. BE
19. LADY - OH

CD 3:
5. AMERICA - Original Demo
16. YOU DON'T BRING ME FLOWERS - Duet with Barbra Streisand

CD 4:
2. IT'S A TRIP (Go For The Moon)
4. BABY CAN I HOLD YOU - Live in Dublin R.D.S. 1989
10. ONE GOOD LOVE - Duet with Waylon Jennings
11. BLUE HIGHWAY - Featuring Chet Atkins
20. WE

CD 5:
5. ANOTHER DAY (That Time Forgot) - Duet with Natalie Maines

CD 6:
4. MAYBE *
6. YOU ARE *

* Previously Unreleased

Well, as you would fully expect from Neil Diamond, this highly impressive 6CD set entitled Neil Diamond - 50th Anniversary is a luxurious, beautiful, and fully encompassing salute to one of the world's greatest, most renowned, most beloved musicians.

As well as dozens of signature Diamond recordings such as ‘Sweet Caroline,’ ‘Forever In Blue Jeans,’ ‘I Am…I Said,’ ‘Solitary Man,’ ‘Cherry Cherry’ and his duet with Barbra Streisand, ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,’ the set has a full disc of 12 previously-unreleased songs.

Indeed, these include the recently-unearthed ‘Sunflower,’ which was written and recently updated by Diamond and originally recorded by Glen Campbell, and the long forgotten track he cut for the Saving Silverman movie (2001), 'The Ballad of Saving Silverman.'

Other newly-discovered material includes ‘Before I Had a Dime’ and ‘C’est La Vie,’ which he wrote with his friend and accomplished fellow writer-artist Gilbert Bécaud. Also in the collection are the original demos of Diamond’s anthemic ‘I Am…I Said’ and ‘America.’

Simply put, this is the best greatest hits release by Neil Diamond EVER! Period. Sure there have been several supposedly comprehensive releases in the past with 2 or 3 CDs worth of music. In fact, I've bought The Essential Neil Diamond and Greatest Hits 1966-1992 only to be disappointed, in truth.

Drawing upon almost 50 years of recordings, Capitol has actually put together a pretty well-thought out known hits collection, that's for darn sure.

However, older songs from the Bang label years ('You Got to Me', '...Boat...', 'Thank the Lord...') are just as good, and just as classic as, for example, 'I'm a Believer,' et al.; but would have undoubtedly been bigger hits if they'd been released after the non-mono recording days (although the latter still did well for Lulu on the UK charts).

Although not a big chart hit, 'Brooklyn Roads' is a sublime recording and one of Diamond's transitional songs - as he moved from writing strictly pop ditties to songs with more mature lyrics.

And both 'Glory Road' and 'Done Too Soon' embrace the upheaval of the '60s - the former is supposedly about things like The Freedom March, MLK and RFK, although it seems like it would fit fine on an album like Beautiful Noise or eve his last album, the beautiful Melody Road; both of which take on the subjects of songwriting and performing.

'Crunchy Granola Suite', Diamond's song about weed and its mellowing effects sounds great in the studio version or the live Hot August Night version, and 'Stones' is another dynamite love ballad (even if the words are a bit mysterious).

'Longfellow Serenade' is one of those Diamond classics that should ALWAYS be included on a greatest/best of package. It's just all round that good.

'I've Been This Way Before' is less angst-ridden than 'I Am I Said', but still as emotional and personal in the offing. 'We' is a bighearted, toe-tapping and insightful, mid-tempo tune whilst 'Hell Yeah' is a strong, guitar driven ballad and a sort of pop/rock 'My Way' - but more personal.

I could go on, but the fact is the unrivaled career of the Grammy-winning Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee has seen him sell more than 130 million albums worldwide.

His history includes 38 US top 40 singles, 16 top ten albums, 40 gold-certified albums, 21 platinum and 11 multi-platinum.

He is also a member of the Songwriters Hall Of Fame and recently received three more of the greatest honors that a composer can receive, the Johnny Mercer Award, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award.

Official 6CD Purchase Link

Neil Diamond @ Facebook

Neil Diamond @ Twitter

Neil Diamond @ Instagram

Neil Diamond @ YouTube

Title - 'One Day (a journal)' [Vinyl LP]
Artist - Anthony W. Rogers

For those not in the know, much like myself, in truth, Anthony W. Rogers is a rather unique Appalachian psychedelic home spun music artist who has released three full-length albums thus far.

Rogers generally prefers natural sounds and instruments over modern samples lending a nod towards '70s music.

Indeed, his music generally provides a measure of instrumental innovation in the sounds with an ever present vocal-centric mix which is at the core of his signature sound ... his voice, of course.

Rogers was a member of DC '90s alt-rock bands The Now, Ten Below and Skatley Crue with his first solo release (Identification) coming thereafter in 1994.

After then essentially withdrawing from the professional music live performance / recording scene for 20 years, Rogers then returned in 2014 with the indie-inspired Wrong.

Now released on his private label, Wildflow, comes the brilliant third album, One Day (a journal).

Oh, and in a move that all us audiophiles truly appreciate, Wildflow Records has a quite wondrous policy re: they only release vinyl in editions of 250!

The new album is, according to Rogers himself, "... the sound of the rural resistance", for "those who would find disturbing the immoral acceptance and apathy of a new emerging society bereft of sympathy, empathy and goodwill ... a society willfully turning its back on its moral obligations."

The album's design is a unique package that sequences the record over a 7" (tracks 1-4) and 12" (tracks 5-12) record. Ergo, the album is three phases in its construction.

This means that the included 7" single (yes, an actual 45rpm is inside this packaging!) is phase 1, side one of the LP is phase 2, and side two is phase 3; with the running theme being about life behind enemy lines circa 2018. [Side 2 is a partial reprieve into related collateral fallout].

1. 'Mash'
2. 'I'll Take the Blame'
3. 'Half the Picture'
4. 'House on the Hill'
5. 'Into the See'
6. 'Roman Candle'
7. 'Fly Away'
8. 'In The Water'
9. 'Ploom MFs'
10. 'Range Rover'
11. 'And When They Ask You'
12. 'Mash (Reprise) / Cocks in the Field'

To a constant drum beat, the first track 'Mash' is brought forth. A melding of both psychedelic sounds and harmonious vocals all swirling together under the umbrella of a lo-fi spirited indie ambiance, that's backed by the more starkly, reverb guitar-led 'I'll Take the Blame.'

The dulcet, gently floating, soaring high vibe of 'Half the Picture' is along next and that's backed by one of my own personal favorites, the memory-evoking storytelling found within the lushly sentimental 'House on the Hill.'

If you listen to 'Into the See' close enough you'll swear that Yoko Ono has crept into the studio, found a background mic and decided to settle in for the duration of the song. Whereas on 'Roman Candle,' Rogers takes a more upbeat, pop direction and brings back the deep reverb essence of his intricate guitar work on 'Fly Away.'

The gentle trip of 'In The Water' is a slowly serious, lucid track of personal meaning to Rogers that faintly has a hold of your elbow as it walks alongside you through its twisting, turning, hazy journey, before the overlapping harmonies of Rogers come to the fore perfectly on 'Ploom MFs.'

With the album covering more than just politics, the twelve tracks presenting a wide range of styles, next up is another stand out cut in the shape of the foot-tappin' piano-led 'Range Rover.' The album then rounds out with the lengthy, emotional beauty of 'And When They Ask You,' before a Zappaesque jam blend of 'Mash (Reprise) / Cocks in the Field' brings the journey to a close.

Vinyl LP Purchase Link

Stream / Listen

Anthony W. Rogers @ Sound Cloud

Title - 'Strictly The Best, Volumes 58 + 59'
Artist - Various

For those not in the know, these quite brilliant annual releases of Strictly The Best present the best new Jamaican reggae songs.

Indeed, here on Strictly The Best, Volume 58, we get the freshest lover’s rock and roots reggae from top names and emerging stars in the genre.

Featuring, amongst others, the brand new hit from Maxi Priest “Rock Steady Love” - produced by Clive Hunt & Michelle Williams - the album contains 14 tracks that will keep your hips and hearts swayin' for a long time!

1. "Contradiction" (feat. Chronixx) - Alborosie
2. "Stop The Fussing And Fighting" - Kenyatta Hill
3. "Blue Sky" - Nesbeth
4. "Jah By My Side" - Ginjah
5. "Try" - Tarrus Riley
6. "Jah See Dem A Come" - Etana
7. "Rebel" - Raging Fyah
8. "Rock Steady Love" - Maxi Priest
9. "My Kinda Girl" - Beres Hammond
10. "Real Love" - Shuga
11. "Bun Fi Bun" - Christopher Martin
12. "Feel Good" - Jah9
13. "Cruise" - Romain Virgo
14. "Rockin In Di Dance" (feat. Konshens) - DJ Kurt Riley

First up is Alborosie featuring Chronixx on "Contradiction," a cut that, for me is also the stand out highlight of this new compilation (sorry Maxi!) A true hipswaying, top shelf reggae track it's backed by both the intoxicating beauty of "Stop The Fussing And Fighting" (Kenyatta Hill) and Nesbeth on the evenflow of "Blue Sky."

The gentle finger-snappin' vibe of "Jah By My Side" from the talented cultural singer Ginjah is up next and that's followed by Jamaican-American reggae singer and member of the Rastafari movement Tarrus Riley on "Try." Etana's feelgood "Jah See Dem A Come" is another gem to be found here and that's backed by "Rebel" from Raging Fyah.

That aforementioned brand new Maxi Priest track is next, and trust me when I say that "Rock Steady Love" is not only waiting for, but sounds like Priest back at his lyrical, slow love groove best. The lovers rock of "My Kinda Girl" by Beres Hammond is wonderful to hear and so to "Real Love" from Mitsy Campbell aka Brown Shuga.

The Dancehall singer/songwriter Christopher Martin on "Bun Fi Bun" changes the tonal vibe of the album perfectly and that bleeds seamlessly into Janine Elizabeth Cunningham's (aka Jah9) addictive "Feel Good" - Jah9. The album then rounds out with the guitar-led "Cruise" from Romain Virgo with foot-tappin' "Rockin In Di Dance" (featuring Konshens) from DJ Kurt Riley bringing the compilation to a close.

Strictly The Best, Volume 59 also features Dancehall and new flavors from top names and emerging stars in the genre.

Bringing us the exclusive hit “Come Back Home (Netflix & Chill)" by rising UK star Lisa Mercedez (featuring Shams The Producer), in much the same vein as the previous volume, the album contains 14 tracks that will keep your hips and hearts swayin' for a long time!

1. "Secret (Refix)" - Vybz Kartel & Shenseea
2. "Good" - Dovey Magnum
3. "Can't Dweet Again" - Christopher Martin
4. "Really Want" (feat. Konshens & Nick x Navi) - Estelle
5. "Come Back Home (Netflix & Chill)" (feat. Shams The Producer) - Lisa Mercedez
6. "Your Style" - I-Octane
7. "A Million Squats" - Assassin
8. "Grab" - RDX
9. "Flair Is In The Air" - Ding Dong
10. "Up Top" - TeeJay
11. "Dancehall President" - Beenie Man
12. "Radio" - Shane O
13. "Dash It In The Mirror" (feat. Sanjay) - DJ Spooky
14. "Lots Of Signs" (feat. Christopher Martin & Beenie Man) - Bulby York

First up is the quite brilliant "Secret (Refix)" from Vybz Kartel & Shenseea, which is backed up by the upsway of beats on "Good" from Dovey Magnum. The lush vibes of "Can't Dweet Again" by Christopher Martin is next and backed by the lovers rock of "Really Want" (featuring Konshens & Nick x Navi) from Britain's Estelle.

The seductive "Come Back Home (Netflix & Chill)" (featuring Shams The Producer) by Lisa Mercedez is one of the obvious stand out highlights here and is backed supremely by both "Your Style" (Byiome Muir aka I-Octane) and the hard dancehall beats of "A Million Squats" from Assassin.

RDX is a duo of reggae performers: Deejay Renigade (Carlton Williams) from the Waterhouse in Kingston, Jamaica and Singer Delomar (Andre Bedward) from Kencot in Kingston, Jamaica and their "Grab" is a head-spinnin' tune, that's for a sure. Much the same vibe is found on singer/dancer Ding Dong's new cut, "Flair Is In The Air" with the lovers rock of "Up Top" by TeeJay along next.

The classic sound of Beenie Man on "Dancehall President" is a joy to behold and that's backed by Shane O on the freeflowing "Radio." This new compilation then rounds out with "Dash It In The Mirror" (featuring Sanjay) from DJ Spooky and the finally Bulby York's "Lots Of Signs" (featuring Christopher Martin & Beenie Man).

'Strictly The Best, Volume 58' CD Purchase Link

'Strictly The Best, Volume 59' CD Purchase Link

Title - 'The West Wing' - Original TV Soundtrack
Artist - W.G. Snuffy Walden

'The West Wing' was the premiere political TV drama of this century, running from 1999 to 2006, and setting records for Emmy Award nominations by a primetime series.

W.G. Snuffy Walden won an Emmy for the theme song and long in demand, this compilation of 29 tracks is the first widely available CD of West Wing music there has been thus far.

Indeed, Walden is a very popular TV composer, having additionally scored; Roseanne, Ellen, Felicity, Friday Night Lights and more.

1. 'We Begin'
2. 'The Aftermath'
3. 'One Down in Gaza'
4. 'Leo Has to Go'
5. 'Ways and Means'
6. 'Leo's Lament'
7. 'Two Cathedrals'
8. 'No Exit'
9. 'Donna and the Delegation'
10. 'The 14th Amendment'
11. 'Halls of the White House'
12. 'Walking the West Wing'
13. 'The First Commandment'
14. 'The Oval Office to Main Title'
15. 'Retaliatory Strikes'
16. 'Recovery'
17. 'Camp David'
18. 'Proportional Response'
19. '24-Hr Deadline'
20. 'Charlie in the Oval Office'
21. 'Mrs. Landingham'
22. 'One of Three'
23. 'Presidential Proclamation'
24. 'Questions'
25. 'Jefferson Lives'
26. 'Strike Immediately'
27. 'Super Tuesday'
28. 'Alternate Options'
29. 'The Nomination'

In truth, this expertly brought together collection of 29 tracks from the quite-brilliant TV show flashes you right back to the time when you sat there watching it.

Which is, in my book, a great sign that the music was just as important to the show as were the actors and cinematic experience ever were.

And that is all down to the great W.G. Snuffy Walden, a man whose craft was always composing and one in which he truly excels.

Stand out cuts for me are (after the 11 second opener) the stern, but flexible duo - 'The Aftermath' and 'One Down In Gaza' and then further in, the short-but-sweet 'The 14th Amendment' (which is performed by the Hollywood Studio Symphony, with Orchestra Contractor David Low and Conducted by Pete Anthony).

Then comes the magnificent, breathtakingly vivid trio of 'The Dog of War,' 'The Defector,' and 'The Benign Prerogative.' Of course, all the other tracks are of equal measure with regards how they tell 'The West Wing' story, but some just grab you - and these did for me.

There is also a limited edition (to just 2000 copies) 2CD soundtrack (of 44 tracks) which is now available to order on the Varese Sarabande official website (see below). A digital version will be released by WaterTower Music.

Official 2CD Purchase Link

Title - 'On And On: The Buddah/Columbia Anthology'
Artist - Gladys Knight & The Pips

For those not in the know, Gladys Knight & the Pips were an R&B/soul family musical act from Atlanta, Georgia that remained active on the music charts and performing circuit for three decades.

Starting out as simply The Pips in 1952, derived from a cousin's nickname, the founding members were Gladys Knight, brother Merald "Bubba" Knight, sister Brenda Knight and cousins Eleanor and William Guest.

After a couple of years performing in talent shows, the group signed with Brunswick Records in 1957, recording a couple of singles that failed to chart.

Brenda Knight and Eleanor Guest were eventually replaced by another cousin, Edward Patten and a non-relative, Langston George in 1959. This lineup produced the group's first hit single, "Every Beat of My Heart".

After the single was released on three different labels, they changed their name to Gladys Knight & the Pips in 1961.

Langston George left the same year and Gladys Knight left in 1962 to start a family with musician Jimmy Newman. Knight rejoined in 1964 and this lineup continued until the group's disbandment in 1989.

The group reached commercial success after signing with Motown Records in 1966. After a year and a half, the group recorded the first hit single version of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" in 1967, which led to several hit singles for Motown's Soul Records label, including "Nitty Gritty", "Friendship Train", "If I Were Your Woman" and "Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)."

They then left the label for Buddah Records in 1973, where they recorded the hits "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me", "I've Got to Use My Imagination" and their number-one hit single, "Midnight Train to Georgia".

Contractual difficulties with their labels forced the group to record side projects until 1980 when they signed with Columbia Records. Later hits included "Save the Overtime (For Me)" and the Grammy-winning single "Love Overboard".

In 1989, the group disbanded with the Pips retiring and Knight embarking on a successful solo career.

Gladys Knight & the Pips are multiple Grammy and American Music Award winners and are inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1996 and 2001 respectively.

SoulMusic Records is very proud to present On & On: The Buddah/Columbia Anthology, a hit-filled 2-CD by the iconic Gladys Knight & The Pips, whose international appeal, as aforementioned, spanned over three decades from the mid-60s to the mid-80s.

This 37-track collection of recordings by the legendary family group (Gladys, brother Merald ‘Bubba’ Knight and cousins William Guest and Edward Patten) focuses on a particularly successful period of their consistent presence as mainstay global hitmakers from 1973-1985.

CD 1:
1. "The Way We Were / Try to Remember"
2. "Midnight Train to Georgia"
3. "I've Got to Use My Imagination"
4. "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me"
5. "Where Peaceful Waters Flow"
6. "On and On"
7. "To Be Invisible"
8. "The Makings of You"
9. "Make Yours a Happy Home" (Alternate Mix)
10. "I Feel a Song (In My Heart)"
11. "Love Finds It's Own Way"
12. "The Need to Be"
13. "Part Time Love"
14. "So Sad the Song"
15. "Everybody's Got to Find a Way"
16. "Little Bit of Love"
17. "Baby Don't Change Your Mind"
18. "Walk Softly"
19. "Come Back and Finish What You Started"
20. "It's a Better Than Good Time"

The first disc of this wondrous, simply stunning new anthology chronicles the group's five-year run of non-stop hits for Buddah Records.

Staring off with an intro from Gladys talking about the good old days, and how we should try and remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh so mellow, etc. in the live medley intro to "The Way We Were / Try to Remember," before the flashback gem "Midnight Train to Georgia."

The funky brilliance of "I've Got to Use My Imagination" is then backed by the laid back love song duo of "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me" and "Where Peaceful Waters Flow," with the title track, "On and On" following along nicely.

Another, to my mind, great run of tracks begins with the heartfelt ode to finding the perfect partner for love, "Part Time Love<" which is backed seamlessly by both "So Sad the Song" and the upbeat Gospel sing-along "Everybody's Got to Find a Way."

Drawn from eight Buddah albums that included production by Curtis Mayfield, Tony Camillo and Van McCoy among others, The Buddah Years features over a dozen charted singles and an alternate mix of "Make Yours A Happy Home" from the 'Claudine' soundtrack.

CD 2:
1. "Landlord"
2. "Taste of Bitter Love"
3. "Still Such a Thing"
4. "Get the Love"
5. "Add It Up"
6. "Bourgie', Bourgie'"
7. "We Need Hearts"
8. "I Will Fight"
9. "A Friend of Mine"
10. "Reach High"
11. "When You're Far Away"
12. "Save the Overtime (For Me)"
13. "You're Number One (In My Book)"
14. "Seconds"
15. "You've Got My Word on That"
16. "Kiss Away the Pain"
17. "Hero" (Aka "Wind Beneath My Wings")

The second disc chronicles the group's five years with Columbia Records during which they initially reunited with Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson (with whom they had worked at Motown), resulting in further hits such as the laid back openers of the slap bass beauty "Landlord" and the dancefloor funk of "Taste Of Bitter Love".

Moving through the album and one of my all-time fav's of theirs from this era has always been 'Bourgie', Bourgie' (although, for the longest time growing up I seriously thought they were singing "Boogie Boogie"!) and here it just sounds so crystal clear; so perfect, even after all these years.

That's backed by the infectious foot-tappin' rhythms of "We Need Hearts," the electro beats of "I Will Fight," and both the delightful jazz funk slow blues of 'A Friend of Mine' and all-out funky strains of "Reach High."

Further success came with "Save The Overtime (For Me)", "You're Number One (In My Book)" and an early version of the pop classic "Wind Beneath My Wings" (here as "Hero").

A first-of-it's-kind comprehensive collection drawn from both Buddah and Columbia albums by the group, it includes all (22) US charted hits released over a twelve-year span.

Liner notes by renowned US writer Kevin Goins include quotes from former Buddah executive Cecil Holmes, songwriter Jim Weatherley, arranger/musician Ray Chew and producer / songwriter Charles Kipps; with remastering by Nick Robbins, artwork by Roger Williams.

Official 2CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Good Old Boys Live - Drink Up & Go Home'
Artist - Good Old Boys

Some of the greatest musical moments happen only once, in a live setting, and if you're not there to experience them at the time, they're lost to history.

But every now and then, a buried treasure is discovered that brings a lost moment back to life and thrills music fans.

Such is the case with this recently unearthed live recording of the all-star bluegrass band the Good Old Boys playing at Margarita's Cantina, a Santa Cruz club, in February of 1975.

Most Jerry Garcia fans know of his early interest in bluegrass music, which was an essential part of Garcia's development as an instrumentalist and songwriter, but many Garcia fans are unaware that in 1975, during a Grateful Dead's hiatus, Jerry produced a seminal album for another bluegrass group, the aforementioned Good Old Boys.

Featuring guitarist David Nelson (guitars/vocals) from the New Riders of the Purple Sage, Frank Wakefield (mandolin/vocals), Brantley Kearns (fiddle/vocals) and Pat Campbell (bass), the Good Old Boys made one album for Round Records; recorded up at Mickey Hart's Ranch.

Shortly after completing the Good Old Boys album, the group decided to do a series of live shows, but during that time period, two of the key players from the original studio lineup were unavailable to go on the road.

Luckily for us, the tape decks were recording back on February 20th and 21st in 1975, the nights when the Good Old Boys played for two nights at Margarita's Cantina.

CD 1:
1. 'Ashes of Love'
2. 'Deep Elem Blues'
3. 'Dim Lights, Thick Smoke'
4. 'Toy Heart'
5. 'Fireball Mail' (Jerry Garcia on banjo)
6. 'I'll Never Make You Blue'
7. 'All the Good Times' (Jerry Garcia vocals)
8. 'She's No Angel'
9. 'Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail'
10. 'Wildwood Flower'
11. 'Teardrops In My Eyes'

CD 2:
1. 'Lonesome Road Blues'
2. 'Long Gone'
3. 'Leave Well Enough Alone'
4. 'White House Blues'
5. 'T For Texas'
6. 'Jesus Loves His Mandolin Player'
7. 'First Whippoorwill'
8. 'New Camptown Races'
9. 'Pistol Packing Mama'
10. 'Rawhide'
11. 'Jerusalem Moan'
12. 'Drink Up & Go Home' (Jerry Garcia lead vocals)
13. 'Orange Blossom Special' (Instrumental)

Listening to this incredible flashback to and era long since gone, in my book, its readily clear that all the performances are well received by an audience in full knowledge of who they were witnessing that night.

With outstanding singing, blistering mandolin and violin solos, and a crowd pleasing vibe that's apparent from the moment the band takes the stage for the opener 'Ashes of Love,' the entire 24 track album is a pure, unadulterated delight to behold again today.

Out now via Rock Bean Records/MVD Audio, Good Old Boys Live - Drink Up & Go Home has been fully restored from the original 2-track tapes that initially recorded the live show, so fans can finally hear this music in all its glory.

Official 2CD Purchase Link

Title - 'I'm Still Here (Big Jay Sings The Blues)'
Artist - Big Jay McNeely

For those not in the know, Cecil James McNeely (April 29, 1927 – September 16, 2018), better known as Big Jay McNeely, was an American rhythm and blues saxophonist.

Inspired by Illinois Jacquet and Lester Young, he teamed with his older brother Robert McNeely, who played baritone saxophone, and made his first recordings with drummer Johnny Otis, who ran the Barrelhouse Club that stood only a few blocks from McNeely's home.

Shortly after he performed on Otis's "Barrel House Stomp," Ralph Bass, A&R man for Savoy Records, promptly signed him to a recording contract.

Indeed, it was Bass's boss, Herman Lubinsky, who suggested the stage name "Big Jay McNeely" because Cecil McNeely just didn't sound commercial enough

McNeely's first hit was "The Deacon's Hop," an instrumental which topped the Billboard R&B chart in early 1949.

Thanks to his flamboyant playing, called "honking," McNeely remained popular through the 1950s and into the early 1960s, recording for the Exclusive, Aladdin, Imperial, Federal, Vee-Jay, and Swingin' labels.

But despite a hit R&B ballad, "There Is Something on Your Mind," (1959) featuring Little Sonny Warner on vocals, and a 1963 album for Warner Bros. Records, McNeely's music career began to cool off.

Furthermore, he actually quit the music industry in 1971 to become a postman! However, thanks to an R&B revival in the early 1980s, McNeely left the post office and returned to touring and recording full-time, usually overseas.

His original tenor sax is enshrined in the Experience Music Project in Seattle, and he was inducted into The Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame.

In 1989, Big Jay McNeely was performing with Detroit Gary Wiggins (European Saxomania Tour II) at the Quasimodo Club in West Berlin the night the Berlin Wall came down, "and Cold War legend has it that they blew down the Berlin Wall in 1989 with earth-shaking sonic sax torrents outside the Quasimodo Club in West Germany".

McNeely and Wiggins toured in Germany and Italy with The International Blues Duo, Johnny Heartsman, Daryl Taylor (who worked with Arnett Cobb and Archie Bell & The Drells), Roy Gaines, Christian Rannenberg, Donald Robertson, Billy Davis, "Hyepockets" Robertson, Lee Allen.

Big Jay McNeely regularly performed at the International Boogie Woogie Festival in The Netherlands, and recorded an album with Martijn Schok, the festival's promoter, in 2009.

The album was entitled Party Time, and one track from the album, "Get On Up and Boogie" (Parts 1, 2, and 3)", was featured on the vintage music compilation This is Vintage Now (2011).

Sadly though, all good things must come to and end and McNeely died in Moreno Valley, California on September 16th, 2018 of prostate cancer, at the age of 91.

The just-released I'm Still Here (Big Jay Sings The Blues) is the final album from the R&B/jazz/early rock saxophone legend. Recorded earlier this year just months before his passing, this is McNeely's first ever true blues album.

1. "You Never Miss the Water (Till the Well Runs Dry)"
2. "Baby, Please Don't Go"
3. "I'm Still Here"
4. "Once I Had a Woman"
5. "Please Don't Turn Me Away"
6. "I Was Too Blind to See"
7. "I'm Gonna Make It Alright"
8. "Woman, Woman, Woman"
9. "I Love to Feel Free"
10. "For My Baby"
11. "Way Back in the Old Days"
12. "Still Got a Long Way to Go (Going Back to L.A.)"

Using each and every one of the 12 tracks to reflect back on his life growing up in Watts (none more so than "Way Back In The Old Days"), his many loves get nods too ("You Never Miss The Water" and "Once I Had A Woman"), along with his career ("I'm Still Here" and "Still Got A Long Way To Go").

With a singing vocal presence that belittles the fact he was 91 the time, McNeely breaks headlong into the blues on the slow-roll opener "You Never Miss the Water (Till the Well Runs Dry)" before strolling neatly into the oft-covered "Baby, Please Don't Go" (actually first recorded by Big Joe Williams in 1935).

The slow slide blues guitar and sax-enhanced beauty of the title track "I'm Still Here" is one of the obvious highlights, and that's backed by the upbeat "Once I Had a Woman" before he heads back into the deep, thoughtful blues of "Please Don't Turn Me Away."

That same musical vein continues on "I Was Too Blind to See" and then we get my own personal favorite on this album, the distinguished early '60s vibe of "I'm Gonna Make It Alright." That's backed seamlessly by the duo of "Woman, Woman, Woman" and "I Love to Feel Free,' before the brilliant deliberately slow slide guitar work on "For My Baby."

The album then, sadly, rounds out with the reaching vocals of a storyteller in full swing on "Way Back in the Old Days" with the deep south blues grind of "Still Got a Long Way to Go (Going Back to L.A.)" wrapping the album in fine style.

With this album, Big Jay McNeely proves he is indeed still here, that his music lives on and is still as vibrant as ever, and that in fact, he will never die within our minds and hearts.

CD Purchase Link

Title - 'We Are All Branches of the Same Tree'
Artist - The Oddyssey Quartet

For those not in the know, following up their debut of composed music (Suite for the End of the Earth), avant-jazz group The Oddyssey Quartet's sophomore album We Are All Branches of the Same Tree is out now.

Featuring twelve improvised pieces from four uber-talented musicians - former Albert Ayler Quintet bassist Bill Folwell, former Sam Rivers Rivbea Orchestra saxophonist David Pate, Jose Cochez on drums, and Rex Shepherd on guitar and prepared guitar - listening to this incredible album it's hard to fathom how a quartet who have only played together a few times could have created such intense musical wonderment.

1. 'Surculus'
2. 'Osier'
3. 'Telgo'
4. 'Spray'
5. 'Switch'
6. 'Ramus'
7. 'Seten'
8. 'Bough'
9. 'Vimen'
10. 'Shrag'
11. 'Stofn'
12. 'Withie'

Beginning with the deeply rooted bass clarinet and sax moments of 'Surculus,' that's backed by the starkly sheer, yet playful and inquisitive jarring moments of 'Osier.' Much like the first track, albeit more jazz club lite, 'Telgor' is next and is backed seamlessly by both the perky, sprightly 'Spray' and the jagged orchestrations of 'Switch.'

The sax and clarinet come to the fore once again on the wavering beauty of 'Ramus,' with the drum-led 'Seten' and the spirited, animated feel of 'Bough' backing it up wonderfully. Cochez's drums really come to the fore on 'Vimen' with the loud, aggressive, and yet controlled 'Shrag' next.

The album the comes to a close with the perky and nibble guitar and bass clarinet work found within my own personal favorite track, 'Stofn,' with this 12 track work rounding out with the slow-cooked two minute guitar gem, 'Withie.'

No matter what brought them together and no matter how many sessions they had together before recording this album, We Are All Branches of the Same Tree ultimately showcases a cohesion of intuitive conversation; and demonstrates, in real time, that we, let alone they, are truly all branches of the same tree.

Digital Purchase Link

Rex Shepherd @ Facebook

Title - 'This Is My Voice'
Artist - The Chocolate Watchband

For those not in the know, the Chocolate Watchband is an American garage rock band that formed in 1965 in Los Altos, California and subsequently endured several line up changes during its existence.> Combining psychedelic and garage rock components, their sound was marked by David Aguilar's lead vocals, as well as proto-punk musical arrangements.

Also, the band's rebellious musical posture made them one of the harder-edged groups of the period.

The Chocolate Watchband was signed to Tower Records in 1966 and released their first single, "Sweet Young Thing", in 1967. Later in the year, the band released their debut album, No Way Out.

Though the album was nationally unsuccessful, the band became a frequent attraction in San Jose and the San Francisco Bay Area.

In 1968, their second album, The Inner Mystique, was released and included the band's most popular song, a cover version of "I'm Not Like Everybody Else".

By 1969, the band released their final album, One Step Beyond, however it was not as highly regarded as their past work, and the band broke up in 1970.

FYI: It should also be mentioned that this band should not be confused with The Chocolate Watch Band, a London-based UK group that issued two singles on Decca Records in 1967!

With that all said, their brand new album, This Is My Voice (out February 22nd via Vu-Je-Day Records) is a raw, pounding-at-times, yet always stirring, vibrant and poignant collection of 11 brand new tracks.

1. "Secret Rendezvous"
2. "Judgement Day"
3. "This Is My Voice"
4. "Trouble Everyday"
5. "Take A Ride"
6. Talk Talk"
7. "Bed"
8. "Bombay Pipeline"
9. "Desolation Row"
10. "I Can’t Seem To Make You Mine"
11. "Till The Daylight Comes"

The opening track is like a bottle rocket firing up and blasting into orbit, charring the musical earth as it soars through all the mediocre and bland, pointless, and uninspired music of today.

In truth, the band - led by founding and current members, vocalist David Aguilar and guitarist Tim Abbott, plus Gary Andrijasevich on drums - never let go of that spirited musical overview and that truly makes this album as vibrantly fresh as anything I've listened to this past decade.

Second generation fans, guitarist Derek See and bassist Alec Palao (Grammy-nominated producer/ historian), also bring their enthusiasm and love for the music to the table to help weave the sound which both faithfully recreates the sonic energy and tone of the original recordings; as well as giving a rare edge to new material that is a logical progression to the bands legacy.

With tracks such as "Judgement Day," "Take a Ride," "Desolation Row," and both "Bombay Pipeline" and the title track still all exuding their brand of psych, garage, and punk determinations and beliefs, Chocolate Watchband haven't just reached back into their past for this new album ... they've embodied its spirit, embraced it's finite delivery system, and brought forth that very same tell-it-like-it-is late '60s scene intrepid fearlessness for a new generation to grasp onto.

Various This Is My Voice CD/Vinyl Purchases Link

Chocolate Watchband @ Facebook

Title - 'The Riddle'
Artist - The Gardening Club

For those not in the know, in 1984, UK-born Martin Springett — an accomplished musician and illustrator who had produced comics for the legendary Heavy Metal magazine and designed and illustrated record covers for Columbia — was commissioned to illustrate the cover of The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay; the first novel of the acclaimed Fionavar Tapestry Trilogy.

A classic of fantasy literature, the trilogy is beloved worldwide, and it launched Springett to international fantasy illustration fame.

Martin Springett was born in the UK but moved with his family to Canada in 1965. In 1969 in Vancouver he recorded an album of settings of Tolkien’s poems from Lord Of The Rings and the Hobbit.

Alas, Christopher Tolkien did not allow the record to be released. Martin played in bands and toured in Canada and the U S, but returned to England in 1971 to seek a record deal.

He subsequently toured in Europe with a band called Gateway Driver, based in Hanover. Upon returning to Canada, a move to Toronto meant entering a new musical landscape and a Vancouver pal, Don Geppert; now a respected engineer in the Toronto music scene worked with Martin on an LP called The Gardening Club, which was released in 1983.

A musically rich and diverse album, The Gardening Club combined King Crimson-like complexity, Canterbury scene-infused whimsy, and a strong pop sensibility; but in the shadow of new wave it was the right album, at the wrong time.

Martin has continued to write create and record music in the intervening years, releasing six independent CD’s.

Indeed, Martin and his band mates - Norm Macpherson, producer and guitarist, James Macpherson, drums and synths, along with both Sean Drabitt and Wayne Kozak - recently completed a brand new The Gardening Club album, entitled The Riddle.

Out now, Martin also, of course, created the wonderfully, and deeply animated artwork that accompanies the album.

1. 'The Riddle Overture'
2. 'Whirled Away'
3. 'Seven Years Old Poet'
4. 'Blues For Richard'
5. 'Leaving Home'
6. 'Pauline'
7. 'Notes On The Affair'
8. 'The Original Sleep'
9. 'Tears At The Matinee'
10. 'Waltz'
11. 'The Riddle'
12. 'Entracte'
13. 'Overture Reprise'

Kicking off on some style with the incredible ambiance of 'The Riddle Overture,' they back that up seamlessly with both my personal favorite, the joyous, playful bounce of 'Whirled Away' and then the expert storytelling of 'Seven Year Old Poet' (albeit, perhaps, for the whole dog on fire thing!).

Progressing through the album and there truly is not one filler to be found amongst the 13 cuts. Another stand out track is the flowingly buoyant 'Leaving Home' along with both 'Tears At The Matinee' and the title track itself, the impeccable dueling guitar work found within the quite brilliant 'The Riddle.'

You can order a copy of the new The Gardening Club album, The Riddle below.

The CD comes with a 24 page illustrated lyric booklet and The Three Riddles (pictured) signed by Martin Springett, and any other members of the Club hanging out in The Potting Shed that they could find!

Official CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Generation Loss'
Artist - A Fragile Tomorrow

For those not in the know, since the band's inception, A Fragile Tomorrow has carved out a considerable place in the world of indie rock.

Indeed, evolution is the name of the game for the band, which features singer/guitarist Sean Kelly, guitarist Brendan Kelly, bassist Shaun Rhoades, and drummer-turned-synth player Dominic Kelly.

Initially making waves as a leading powerpop group, in mid-2017 the band began a natural shift towards more progressive and complex compositions and production.

That led to a major reshuffle with Dominic Kelly's move to synths and the introduction of recording and touring drummer Josh Kean.

About to release a brand new album, Generation Loss via MPress Records on February 22nd, 2019, the band's first single in three years, and also the album opener, 'Dig Me Out,' leans heavily on krautrock, art rock and hip hop influences.

1. 'Dig Me Out'
2. 'Generation Loss'
3. 'How Do We Dance To It?'
4. 'I'm Afraid Of Too Much Change'
5. 'Gun Shy'
6. 'I Fought The War, I Won'
7. 'Circling'
8. 'I See My Son'
9. 'The Human Condition'
10. 'Technicolor'
11. 'Valhalla'

Putting more emphasis than ever on groove throughout the 11 track album it also marks a bold new beginning for the traditionally guitar-driven band.

My personal favorite is the flowing early '90s pop sensibilities of the title track, which is backed seamlessly by both the jangly 'How Do You Dance To It?' and the sterner 'I'm Afraid Of Too Much Change.'

To the sound of police sirens next comes the brilliant '90s-esque 'Gun Shy' which is backed by more of their krautrock, Talking Heads-esque psych art on 'I Fought The War, I Won.' Although more subtle, that vibe also ebbs through on the effervescent 'Circling' with the more strident tones of 'I See My Son' up next.

Drawing from more experimental influences and a more imaginative approach to pop song craft, A Fragile Tomorrow then rounds out with a mid-tempo 'The Human Condition,' an upbeat gem in 'Technicolor,' and then culminates in the thoughtful, quasi-psychedelic pop soundscape of 'Valhalla.'

CD Purchase Link

A Fragile Tomorrow @ Facebook!

Title - 'Dark Matter: Music For Film'
Artist - Lawson Rollins

For those not in the know, Lawson Rollins is an American guitarist and composer from North Carolina noted for his virtuoso fingerstyle technique and melodic compositional skills.

Indeed, Guitar Player magazine ranked him as one of the "50 Transcendent Acoustic Guitarists" of all time.

His music is generally classed as Latin jazz and world music, with elements of samba, bossa nova, Middle Eastern, classical guitar, flamenco, and even shred guitar.

He often employs fast minor scales and diminished scale solo runs to his compositions which are executed in the flamenco picado style.

His brand new album Dark Matter: Music For Film (out February 15th, 2019 via Infinitia Records / TSR Records) offers 25 tracks of atmospheric instrumental music designed to engender cinematic imaginings in the mind's eye of the Listener.

Trust me when I say that popping this CD in, sitting back and either having a mid-afternoon nap or trying to concentrate on your daily work routine at hand, the music not only wafts around you like thinly-laced honey, but gets absorbed into your brain; calming and soothing all angst found within.

Incorporating a wondrous, mysterious soundscape of lush acoustic and electric guitars, synthesizers, violins, and flute, they all bond to bring forth a soundscape that transcends conventional song structure in favor of free-form musical impressionism ripe with emotional intensity.

The opener, 'Innocence' is a pure, unadulterated delight to behold and sets the listener up perfectly for what is to come. Embedded with a low ebb Native Indian wind backbone, it soars and gently peaks throughout and is definitely a track that embodies all that is great about Rollins.

Another of my personal favorites here is the cultured electric guitar work found on 'Sinister Encounter.' That and the track that follows seamlessly thereafter, 'Ever Onward' are just two tracks of the 25 that ooze lightness and wonderment in equal measures.

From the aforementioned opener 'Innocence' and the mournful sounds of 'Endless,' on through to the darker depths of the Soul laid bare on 'Never Forget' and 'Loss,' through to the stoic landscapes of both 'Haunting' and 'Searching,' coursing to its finale in both the gently frenetic force within 'Conflict' and the perfect accompaniment for your morning run 'Undercurrent,' this new album from Rollins is, for my money, one of his best yet.

CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Encore'
Artist - The Specials

For those not in the know, the history of one of the most beloved SKA UK bands, The Specials is a long and jagged one, that's for sure.

Also known as The Special AKA, The Specials are an English 2 Tone and ska revival band formed in 1977 in Coventry.

After some early changes, the first stable lineup of the group consisted of Terry Hall and Neville Staple on vocals, Lynval Golding and Roddy Radiation on guitars, Horace Panter on bass, Jerry Dammers on keyboards, John Bradbury on drums, and Dick Cuthell and Rico Rodriguez on horns.

As I'm sure you already know, their music combines a danceable ska and rocksteady beat with punk's energy and attitude. However, lyrically, they present a more focused and informed political and social stance.

The band wore mod-style 1960s period rude boy outfits (pork pie hats, tonic and mohair suits and loafers) and in 1980, the song 'Too Much Too Young', the lead track on their The Special AKA Live! EP, reached #1 in the UK Singles Chart.

In 1981, the recession-themed single 'Ghost Town' also hit #1 in the UK.

After seven consecutive UK Top 10 singles between 1979 and 1981, main lead vocalists Hall and Staple, along with guitarist Golding, left to form Fun Boy Three.

Continuing as The Special AKA (a name they used frequently on earlier Specials releases), a substantially revised Specials line-up issued new material through 1984, including the top 10 UK hit single 'Free Nelson Mandela.' The group reformed in 1993, and have continued to perform and record with varying line-ups (but without Dammers).

Now the British 2 Tone icons The Specials have announced their first album of new music in 20 years. Rather perfectly entitled Encore, the new album is out now via Island Records / Universal Music Group and it follows 2001’s Conquering Ruler.

It also features the group’s first original material since 1998’s Guilty ’til Proven Innocent!

But, more intriguingly to us fans of the band, Encore also marks the return of original lead vocalist Terry Hall, who entered the studio with the band for the first time since 1981’s classic ‘Ghost Town’!

Founding members Lynval Golding and Horace Panter are also involved, with drummer Kenrick Rowe and Ocean Colour Scene guitarist Steve Cradock rounding out the line-up.

1. 'Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys'
2. 'B.L.M'
3. 'Vote For Me'
4. 'The Lunatics'
5. 'Breaking Point'
6. 'Blam Blam Fever'
7. '10 Commandments'
8. 'Embarrassed By You'
9. 'The Life And Times (Of A Man Called Depression)'
10 'We Sell Hope'

While eight of the songs are originals, two are covers: an opening rendition of The Equals’ ‘Black Skinned Blue-Eyed Boys’ (here transformed into a disco funk number) and a take on The Valentines’ gun crime epidemic cut ‘Blam Blam Fever’.

I mean, please, please believe me when I say the old, classic, still longed for Specials essence is truly here throughout this quite brilliant new album.

Hall's vocals may not be as youthful, as piercingly angst ridden as it was back in the early '80s, but listening to tracks such as the foot-tappin' ebb and flow of the 'Ghost Town'-esque 'Vote For Me' and the flashback beauty 'The Lunatics' (a for-the-fans reworking of the big FB3 hit 'The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum'), is like stepping into the wayback machine of life's greatest sounds; all now brought forth with a more mellowed out approach.

On 'B.L.M.' (Black Lives Matter), Golding comes to the fore on a track that covers three generations of dealing with racism after the Windrush scandal. 'Embarrassed By You' is a ska/reggae duet for Golding and Hall to get lost within.

Lyrically chock full of ongoing street worries such as knife crime, hoodies, moped gangs and misguided youths, lines such as "We never fought for freedom for nasty little brutes like you, to come and unwork the work we do” say it all.

There's also their response to the 1967 Prince Buster track of the same name, the effervescent spoken word '10 Commandments,' which simply oozes perfectly everything that is great about The Specials within those three minutes.

With the original a very sexist viewpoint of how a woman should be when in a relationship with a man, Hall along with Saffiyah Khan (the activist who wore a Specials t-shirt when she went face-to-face with the EDL in Birmingham in 2017) have "reimagined" some of the lyrics to reflect more of todays societal beliefs re: female strength.

The album rounds out with Hall's own personal, and starkly honest storytelling on 'The Life And Times (Of A Man Called Depression).' Recounting his own battles in a very open, lyrical manner, the stoic reggae/blues cut is also one of their best here.

The magnificent, eye-opening (on todays society) album closer 'We Sell Hope' rounds the album out perfectly, unless you are anything like me and you simply hit Play and listen to it all over again (and again).

Hall, Golding, and Panter produced the new 10-track album alongside touring keyboardist Nikolaj Torp Larsen.

Also, there is a Special Edition CD edition also just released of Encore that includes a live album called The Best of The Specials Live.

CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Mendelssohn'
Artist - Jan Lisiecki / Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

For those not in the know, Jan Lisiecki (born March 23, 1995) is a Canadian classical pianist of Polish descent.

In addition to performing in live concerts, he has been a recording artist with Deutsche Grammophon since 2010.

Following up his Chopin: Works for Piano and Orchestra (2017), the young pianist now explores a pair of early Romantic masterpieces with the acclaimed Orpheus Chamber Orchestra: Mendelssohn's Piano Concertos in G minor and D minor.

1-3 Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No.1 in G minor op. 25
4-21 17 Variations sérieuses in D minor op. 54
22-24 Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No.2 in D minor op. 40
25-26 Rondo capriccioso in E major op. 14
27 Songs Without Words in G minor "Venetian Gondola Song" op. 19b/6

At 23, pianist Jan Lisiecki is already recognized as one of the greatest pianists of our time and here on the wondrous Mendelssohn he also gives listeners further insight into Mendelssohn's dazzling keyboard writing beyond the well-known concertos.

For Lisiecki, along with the splendid Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, also performs a selection of some of Mendelssohn's most brilliant pieces for solo piano: the Variations Sérieuses, the Rondo capriccioso, and the Venetian Boat Song from Songs Without Words.

Personally, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this, but I love the way Lisiecki plays. I also have his Chopin Etude recording and while I don't always completely agree with his interpretation of some of them, overall it is a wonderful recording.

Lisecki is a master of his chosen profession already, for sure, almost to the point of amazing the listener that his performances can be so mature by someone so young.

His work here on Mendelssohn is just so touchingly, so beautifully played, full of hope and promise for a magnificent future.

Amazon Purchase Link

Title - 'Capharnaüm - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack'
Artist - Khaled Mouzanar

For those not in the know, Khaled Mouzanar is a Lebanese music composer, songwriter and producer who has composed music scores for several films, including After Shave, Caramel, and Where Do We Go Now?.

In 2008, he recorded Les Champs Arides, his first solo album as a singer and songwriter.

His work is rooted in various music genres, including classical, jazz, Mediterranean, and oriental melodies. His compositions are also influenced by Brazilian choro and Argentinian tango.

On his latest soundtrack score, Capharnaüm (nominated for a Best Foreign Language Academy Award), due to Mouzanar's ability to visualize the images of the film and to translate them into music, he has, yet again, created and orchestrated a really stunning musical piece here.

1. 'Capharnaüm'
2. 'Prelude to Eye of God'
3. 'Eye of God'
4. 'Dawn'
5. 'Zeyn working'
6. 'Cockroachman'
7. 'Alone'
8. 'Rahil'
9. 'Yonas'
10. 'Capharspleen'
11. 'Massenko waltz'
12. 'Sahar'
13. 'Underworld'
14. 'Prelude to Zeyn'
15. 'Zeyn'
16. 'Sahar's wedding'

'Capharnaüm', is a 2018 Lebanese drama film written and directed by Nadine Labaki.

Inside a court, Zain, (Zain Al Rafeea), a 12-year-old Lebanese boy, is brought before the judge. To the question: "Why are you attacking your parents in court?". Zain answers: "For giving me life!"

The film retraces the incredible journey of this child in search of his identity and who rebels against the life that was imposed on him.

It was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize.

The film received a 15-minute standing ovation following its premiere at Cannes on 17 May 2018.

Bringing the characters - their endeavors, their highs and lows, their joys and pain - to life quite breathtakingly, Mouzanar begins their tale with the stern, if not forthright scene setting of the title track 'Capharnaüm,' and backs that up seamlessly with tracks such as the haunting partnership of both 'Prelude to Eye of God' and 'Eye of God,' the playful 'Cockroachman,' and the disjointed upbeat vibe of 'Rahil.'

As we go deeper into this world brought musically forth in such precise, delicate mannerisms, we get the tender 'Massenko waltz' and the chamber sounds of 'Sahar,' and both the gripping 'Underworld' and the album closer, 'Sahar's Wedding.'

Amazon Purchase Link

Khaled Mouzanar @ Facebook

Title - 'Enchanted Isle'
Artist - VOCES8

For those not in the know, VOCES8 is an a cappella octet from the United Kingdom.

Formed in 2005, VOCES8 has a diverse repertoire ranging from early English and European Renaissance choral works to their own arrangements.

Indeed, they came up with the name en route to a competition! Paul Smith (one of the founding members) has since explained that, "We needed a name to go on stage and there were eight of us and we were in Italy."

"We wanted something that feels like voices, but had that Latin vibe to it, so we went with voces."

Their brand new album a on Decca Classics, Enchanted Isle is an album of music reminiscent of rolling hills, green valleys, rugged mountainsides, and sleepy villages.

1. 'Soay'
2. 'Theme from Harry's Game'
3. 'Carrickfergus' (featuring Sibéal) - Game of Thrones
4. 'May It Be' - The Lord of the Rings
5. 'Agnus EI'
6. 'The Rains of Castamere'
7. 'Pyramid Song'
8. 'O Albion'
9. 'Song For Athene'
10. 'The Parting Glass'
11. 'My Luve is like a Red, Red Rose'
12. 'Let Me Love Be Heard'
13. 'Danny Boy'
14. 'I Was Born for This'
15. 'She Walks In Beauty'
16. 'The Sun Never Says'
17. 'Caledonia'

Originally written for film or television (such as Lord Of The Rings and Game Of Thrones), new arrangements of Scottish and Irish melodies, and compositions set to texts by great English poets, Enchanted Isle is just as good, maybe more so, as you would hope/expect it to be.

From the atmospheric, gently soaring majestic beauty of the traditional 'Soay', to the haunting, simply tingling rendition of one of my all-time favorite Clannad tracks, 'Theme From Harry's Game,' into the traditional beauty 'Carrickfergus' (sung in chamber style quality by Sibéal), the album proves its worth track after track.

One assumes that VOCES8 (Katie Jeffries-Harris – alto, Christopher Moore – baritone, Andrea Halsey – soprano, Barnaby Smith – countertenor, Eleonore Cockerham –soprano, Blake Morgan – tenor, Sam Dressel – tenor, and Jonathan Pacey - bass) specifically created the design of this albums orchestrations to straddle, for want of a better term, the elusive classical-popular divide, and for me they have pulled it off.

That said, this melding of traditional British and Irish folk songs, pop, easy listening does also feel a wee bit already tried and tested within their chosen market, but they definitely still manage to refresh the scene, so to speak.

Stand out tracks as we progress include the stoic chamber music of 'The Rains of Castamere,' the stunningly lovely 'My Luve is like a Red, Red Rose,' the group as a whole on 'She Walks in Beauty,' and the stirring album ending 'Caledonia.'

Featuring music from Radiohead ('Pyramid Song'), Enya, Clannad, and compositions from both Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, these new arrangements of Scottish and Irish melodies are a sheer and unadulterated joy to behold.

Official Purchase Link

Title - 'Vikings Chant'
Artist - SKÁLD

For those not in the know, SKÁLD is a unique project in music inspired by Nordic mythology.

Developed over time by a group of enthusiasts, the project originated when producer-composer Christophe Voisin-Boisvinet encountered a trio of talented singers whose voices had atypical timbres.

Together they decided to breathe new life into the poetry of the ancient skalds, whose ancient language – Old Norse – told stories of the Vikings and their gods.

In the early Middle Ages, the skalds of Scandinavian society were storytellers, poets and musicians.

In the same way as the bards of the Celts, they sang the praises of their bloodlines, narrating the epic feats of heroes or the exploits of their Gods in times when the oral tradition was sovereign.

Blending chanted narratives with rhythmical song — in a combination carried by music that often led to a state of trance — the skalds captivated their listeners with the power of the images they evoked.

Skaldic poetry is extremely strong, with a rich vocabulary and often complex verses that confer a mysterious aura on the meaning, conferring the status of an initiate on the author of such works.

It can also be noted that this narrative role was not reserved for men alone, as the names of several female skalds are known to us.

Releasing their debut full-length album, Vikings Chant via Decca Classics (Universal Music Group), SKÁLD celebrate their heritage by performing in the ancient tradition they musically embrace.

1. 'Enn átti Loki fleiri börn'
2. 'Rún'
3. 'Valfreyjudrápa'
4. 'Níu'
5. 'Flúga'
6. 'Gleipnir'
7. 'Krákumál'
8. 'Ó Valhalla'
9. 'Ec man iötna'
10. 'Yggdrasill'
11. 'Ódinn'
12. 'Ginnunga'
13. 'Jóga'

Calming, soothing, haunting, but over all unique, SKÁLD's music here on Viking Chant is very Celtic in its styling and yet, at the very same time, very of-its-own too.

Following up their well received Voices of Thula EP, the band - Justine Galmiche, Pierrick Valence and Mattjö Haussy - the first track leads us in, gently to their world, before both 'Rún' and 'Valfreyjudrápa' bring forth tribal drums and guitar work that stunningly blend with Galmiche's vocal tone.

Not all tracks are sung by Galmiche though as 'Gleipnir' is an upbeat cut, strengthened not only by some wild tribal drums but solid, stoic male vocals too. OK, sure, Galmiche's vocals do come in later to add harmonies to the track, but one a track such as 'Ec man iötna' (an esoteric acapella), these harmonized melodies add insightful depth.

Using such stringed instruments as the lyre, the talharpa, the citole, the nyckelharpa (aka a keyed harp), SKÁLD's debut full-length album is atmospheric to the ninth and is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most original albums I've had the pleasure to listen to for many a year.

Viking Chants will be released in three versions: CD Collector Pack, Vinyl and as a Limited Edition 32-page CD/book containing the lyrics and their translations in French.

Amazon Purchase Link

SKÁLD @ Facebook

Title - 'Beethoven: Symphony No. 9'
Artist - Seiji Ozawa

For those not in the know, Seiji Ozawa is a Japanese conductor known for his advocacy of modern composers and for his work with the San Francisco Symphony, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He is also the recipient of numerous international awards.

45 years after his debut Philips recording of Beethoven’s 9th, Seiji Ozawa returns to this epic masterpiece on the brand new Beethoven: Symphony No. 9, out now via Decca Classics.

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 'Choral'

Inclusive of the wonderful Mito Chamber Orchestra - which in itself features many international star players, including: Radek Baborák (horn), Ricardo Morales (clarinet) and Philippe Tondre (oboe) - the German baritone Markus Eiche leads a quartet of leading Japanese soloists and the Tokyo Opera Singers in a fascinating performance on a chamber orchestra scale.

Let's be perfectly honest here, for having covered this terrain some 45 years ago, there are no real surprises coming forth from Ozawa’s newly revitalized treatment of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

That said, even at his age (82), he pushes himself to bring forth a freshly animated version of the work, that's for sure. Choosing not to overwhelm the work with an expansive orchestra, using this smaller Mito Chamber Orchestra ensues that the overall sound is more compact, better suited to the work; in my humble opinion.

Listening to this work of musical art, twice now, in fact, and I find the tempo is good, and he doesn't get carried away with unnecessary pauses and other artistic license. Nor do the MCO.

Sure there are times when energy beats out refinement, but that's not to say that the playing is splashy. Far from it for they play from their hearts and souls whilst Ozawa orchestrates it all with an inner smile on his heart. The most perfect of pairings, if ever there were.

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Title - 'Nocturne: The Piano Album'
Artist - Vangelis

For those not in the know, Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassiou, known professionally as Vangelis, is a Greek musician and composer of electronic, progressive, ambient, jazz, and orchestral music.

He is best known for his Academy Award-winning score to Chariots of Fire, also composing scores for the films Blade Runner, Missing, Antarctica, The Bounty, 1492: Conquest of Paradise, and Alexander, and the use of his music in the PBS documentary Cosmos: A Personal Voyage by Carl Sagan.

Vangelis began his career working with several popular bands of the 1960s such as the Forminx and Aphrodite's Child, with the latter's album 666 going on to be recognized as a progressive-psychedelic rock classic.

Throughout the 1970s, Vangelis composed music scores for several animal documentaries, including L'Apocalypse des Animaux, La Fête sauvage and Opéra sauvage; the success of these scores brought him into the film scoring mainstream.

In the early 1980s, Vangelis formed a musical partnership with Jon Anderson, the lead singer of progressive rock band Yes, and the duo went on to release several albums together as Jon & Vangelis.

In 1981, he composed the score for the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Original Score. The soundtrack's single, the film's "Titles" theme, also reached the top of the American Billboard Hot 100 chart and was used as the background music at the London 2012 Olympics winners' medal presentation ceremonies.

Vangelis also received acclaim for his synthesizer-based soundtrack for the 1982 film Blade Runner.

Having had a career in music spanning over 50 years and having composed and performed more than 50 albums, Vangelis is considered to be one of the most important figures in the history of electronic music.

Fascinated by space and having previously collaborated with NASA, Vangelis, the godfather of electronic music, releases a new album inspired by nighttime, Nocturne: The Piano Album (out now via Decca Classics).

1. 'Nocturnal Promenade'
2. 'To the Unknown Man'
3. 'Mythodea – Movement 9'
4. 'Moonlight Reflections'
5. 'Through the Night Mist'
6. 'Early Years'
7. 'Love Theme' (From Blade Runner)
8. 'Sweet Nostalgia'
9. 'Intermezzo'
10. 'To a Friend'
11. 'La petite fille de la mer' (From L’Apocalypse des animaux)
12. 'Longing' (From Blade Runner)
13. 'Main Theme' (From Chariots of Fire)
14. 'Unfulfilled Desire'
15. 'Lonesome'
16. 'Conquest of Paradise (From 1492: Conquest of Paradise)'
17. 'Pour Melia'

Also inclusive of solo piano versions of his best-loved hits - including the Chariots of Fire, 1492: Conquest of Paradise and Blade Runner themes - the tracks were initially released digitally at nightfall throughout the winter; tying in with moon cycles and key events in the astronomical calendar.

In truth, and not only because I'm a huge Vangelis fan, let alone also being a true devotee of the night, I've been awaiting this album with giddy glee!

This is a very welcome interpretation from Vangelis of some of his own best-known works. I would go so far as to say that each piece is almost an entirely new composition simply by how it's performed on the piano.

They're at once soothing and dramatic. The presentation is strong and precise, perhaps overly so, tending to lean towards mechanical, but that is a matter of personal taste.

As with the collection of new nocturnal tracks, the engineering, too, is slightly exaggerated on the high end, bordering on harsh at times. But, as noted, depending on how revealing your system is, you may find it a little fatiguing over time.

So, what we have here is majestic electronic music in a slower tempo, great sounds abounding, and all powered by the back bone of a piano. Lest we forget that this is not a symphonic orchestra arrangement of his compositions for synthesizers, it is music and arrangement composed and played by the maestro on the classic grand piano.

Song after song I felt more and more engaged, in tune with this wonderful piece of work. It's different, for sure, and not your typical Vangelis album.

But even the masters have to expand their musical horizons and fly freely from within their own comfort zones, don't they.

That said, 'Nocturnal Promenade' kicks things off and will - as a fan- instantly have you scratching your head and wondering what is happening here. But sooner than later the genius of Vangelis comes flowing, ebbing through and you know you're in for an incredible experience.

Even though 'Through the Night Mist' (as an example) has the Vangelis signature sound all over from the off, it's also got a wickedly stoic bass line that squares up perfectly against his known work.

Indeed, it could easily fit perfectly on L'Apocalyse des animaux or Opera sauvage; in my humble opinion.

Amazon Purchase Link

Title - 'Strauss: Waltzes'
Artist - Willi Boskovsky / Wiener Philharmoniker

For those not in the know, Willi Boskovsky (16 June 1909 – 21 April 1991) was an Austrian violinist and conductor, best known as the long-standing conductor of the Vienna New Year's Concert.

Boskovsky was born in Vienna, and joined the Vienna Academy of music at the age of nine. He was the concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic from 1936 to 1979.

He was also, from 1955, the conductor of the Vienna New Year's Concert, which is mostly devoted to the music of Johann Strauss II and his contemporaries.

Along with the Vienna Philharmonic, he was also the chief conductor of the Wiener Johann Strauss Orchester up until his death. A forerunner of this ensemble was the 19th-century Strauss Orchestra founded by Johann Strauss I in 1835. He died in Visp, Switzerland.

In chamber ensemble he led the Boskovsky Quartet with Philipp Matheis (2nd violin), Gunther Breitenbach (viola) and Nikolaus Hübner (violoncello). The Boskovsky Quartet, together with Johann Krump (double-bass), Alfred Boskovsky (clarinet), Josef Veleba (horn) and Rudolf Hanzl (bassoon) formed the Vienna Octet.

Boskovsky was also a Mozart performer: he recorded all the sonatas for violin and piano, with pianist Lili Kraus, and the complete trios for violin, piano and cello, with Kraus and Nikolaus Hübner for Les Discophiles Français.

He played in Brahms' Double Concerto in A minor, Op.102, with Wilhelm Furtwängler conducting the Vienna Philharmonic.

Decca Classics have just released a stunning 2CD set from Willi Boskovsky and the Wiener Philharmoniker entitled 'Strauss: Waltzes and it is, quite easily, one of the most formidable of its kind thus far brought forth in many a year.

CD 1:
1. 'An der schönen blauen Donau'
2. 'Frühlingsstimmen'
3. 'Sphären-Klänge'
4. 'Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald'
5. 'Du und Du'
6. 'Wein, Weib und Gesang'
7. 'Tausend und eine Nacht'
8. 'Wo die Zitronen blühn'
9. 'Liebeslieder'

CD 2:
1. 'Wiener Blut'
2. 'Wiener Bonbons'
3. 'Künstlerleben'
4. 'Morgenblätter'
5. 'Dorfschwalben aus Österreich'
6. 'Rosen aus dem Süden'
7. 'Kaiser-Walzer'
8. 'Accellerationen'

I have been a Boskovsky / Wiener Philharmoniker fan for a long time and even his work with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra has allowed me to embrace his work further down the years.

So to listen to this wondrous new 2-CD package of the Strauss' Waltzes - An Der Schonen, Blauen Donau and The Blue Danube - was an unprecedented treat, please believe me.

And I say the Strauss' as this new collection includes all of the most famous Waltzes by Johann Strauss II along with two of the finest waltzes by his talented brother, Josef.

Part of Maestro Boskovsky's secret seems to be a perfect mix of technique and technicality - a blend to please the romantic, the purist, and even us music lovers who are a little of both.

His conducting reflects feeling and passion but without crossing the line and affecting the integrity of the music.

And the selection is great. Not only do we get the usual "suspects" but some slightly lesser known waltzes as well. Don't miss the energetic performance of Morning Papers, with its memorable brass passages played here to perfection.

Overall, this new collective set is beautiful music superbly conducted and played by people who understand and love it. Very highly recommended.

Amazon Purchase Link

Title - 'Fauré, Debussy, Szymanowski, Chopin'
Artist - Rafal Blechacz / Bomsori Kim

For those not in the know, Rafal Blechacz is a Polish classical pianist who began piano lessons at the age of five, and enrolled in the National Arthur Rubinstein Music School in Bydgoszcz three years later.

In May 2007, he graduated from the Feliks Nowowiejski Music Academy in Bydgoszcz with professor Katarzyna Popowa-Zydroñ.

He won second prize at the Arthur Rubinstein in Memoriam Piano Competition in Bydgoszcz in 2002, second prize at the 4th Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in 2003 (no first prize was awarded), and first prize at the International Piano Competition in Morocco in 2004.

On October 21, 2005, he became the sole recipient of all five first prizes at the 15th International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, taking First Prize and the polonaise, mazurka, sonata, and concerto prizes.

In fact, to this day, no other pianist has achieved this feat! According to ABC News, one of the judges, Professor Piotr Paleczny, said that Blechacz "so outclassed the remaining finalists that no second prize could actually be awarded."

According to PBS, another judge, John O'Conor, opined "He is one of the greatest artists I have had a chance to hear in my entire life".

Blechacz was the first Pole to win the prize (given every five years) since 1975, when Krystian Zimerman won.

He signed a contract to record for Deutsche Grammophon on May 29, 2006 and in addition to his 2005 debut album from CD Accord, he has released four albums under Deutsche Grammophon as of January 2013.

Winner of the 62nd ARD International Music Competition, Bomsori Kim is internationally regarded as one of today’s most vibrant and exciting violinist.

She is a prize winner of a number of prestigious international violin competitions such as the Tchaikovsky International Competition, the Queen Elisabeth Competition, the International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition, the Joseph Joachim International Violin Competition Hannover, the Montreal International Musical Competition and the Sendai International Music Competition.

Bomsori received astonishing success at the 15th International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition, winning both Second Prize and Critic’s Prize, as well as nine additional special prizes.

For his first recording of chamber music on Deutsche Grammophon, Rafa³ Blechacz teams up with violinist Bomsori Kim for sonatas by Fauré, Debussy and Szymanowski, as well as Nathan Milstein's haunting arrangement of Chopin's Nocturne in C sharp minor.

Gabriel Fauré (1845 - 1924)

Claude Debussy (1862 - 1918)
5-7 Sonata for Violin and Piano in G Minor, L. 140

Karol Szymanowski (1882 - 1937)
8-10 Sonata for Violin and Piano in D Minor, Op. 9

Frédéric Chopin (1810 - 1849)
11. Nocturne No. 20 in C sharp minor op. posth.

Total Playing Time: 1:02:32

So it goes that Blechacz was looking for a chamber music partner at the time for a new project he was working on and came across Kim quite accidently. “I sent her an email,” he recalls, “and luckily for me, she accepted my musical invitation.”

Well, that's actually lucky for ALL of us as this new duo have partnered to bring us their first rather magical recording of French and Polish repertoire.

Polish melancholy and French elegance are connecting to a wonderfully symbiotic relationship in music, a point well illustrated by the works of Frédéric Chopin, who, Polish by birth, settled in France.

Rafal's playing is characterized by its elegance, delicacy, and a poetic solemnity that is truly embraced and savored by the celebrated young violinist Kim here on Fauré, Debussy, Szymanowski, Chopin.

Kim's debut, Wieniawski & Shostakovich: Violin concertos (2017) was one of my personal favorites of the year. A rather fantastic debut that is still highly recommended, of course, her work here alongside Blechacz is, for want of a better phrase, perfection personified.

Official Purchase Link

Title - 'Live from the Forbidden City - Carmina Burana'
Artist - Various

For those not in the know, Live from the Forbidden City - Orff: Carmina Burana was recorded (and filmed) live in front of the magnificent scenery of Beijing's Forbidden City.

The concert features conductor Long Yu and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, both freshly signed as exclusive recording artists to Deutsche Grammophon, and performances from Aida Garifullina, Daniil Trifonov, Mari Samuelsen, and more.

This unique gala concert celebrates the 120th anniversary of Deutsche Grammophon and was released on both CD and DVD via them on February 1st, 2019.

1. "O Fortuna" - Wiener Singakademie, Heinz Ferlesch, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (2:17)
2. "Fortune Plango Vulnera" - Wiener Singakademie, Heinz Ferlesch, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (2:41)
3. "Veris Leta Facies" - Wiener Singakademie, Heinz Ferlesch, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (3:46)
4. "Omnia Sol Temperat" - Ludovic Tézier, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (2:23)
5. "Ecce Gratum" - Wiener Singakademie, Heinz Ferlesch, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (2:29)
6. Dance - Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (1:42)
7. "Floret Silva Nobilis" - Wiener Singakademie, Heinz Ferlesch, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (3:32)
8. "Chramer, Gip Die Varwe Mir" - Wiener Singakademie, Heinz Ferlesch, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (3:27)
9. "Reie" - "Swaz Hie Gat Umbe" - "Chume, Chum Geselle Min" - Wiener Singakademie, Heinz Ferlesch, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (4:35)
10. "Were Diu Werlt Alle Min" - Wiener Singakademie, Heinz Ferlesch, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (0:54)
11. "Estuans Interius" - Ludovic Tézier, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (2:27)
12. "Olim Lacus Colueram" - Toby Spence, Wiener Singakademie, Heinz Ferlesch, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (3:27)
13. "Ego Sum Abbas" - Ludovic Tézier, Wiener Singakademie, Heinz Ferlesch, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (1:46)
14. "In Taberna Quando Sumus" - Wiener Singakademie, Heinz Ferlesch, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (3:00)
15. "Amor Volat Undique" - Aida Garifullina, Shanghai Spring Children's Choir, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (3:22)
16. "Dies, Nox Et Omnia" - Ludovic Tézier, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (2:40)
17. "Stetit Puella" - Aida Garifullina, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (2:08)
18. "Circa Mea Pectora" - Ludovic Tézier, Wiener Singakademie, Heinz Ferlesch, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (2:01)
19. "Si Puer Cum Puellula" - Ludovic Tézier, Wiener Singakademie, Heinz Ferlesch, Long Yu (0:58)
20. "Veni, Veni, Venias" - Wiener Singakademie, Heinz Ferlesch, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (1:02)
21. "In Trutina" - Aida Garifullina, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu ( 2:11)
22. "Tempus Est Iocundum" - Aida Garifullina, Ludovic Tézier, Wiener Singakademie, Shanghai Spring Children's Choir, Heinz Ferlesch, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (2:08)
23. "Dulcissime" - Aida Garifullina, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (0:38)
24. "Ave Formosissima" - Wiener Singakademie, Heinz Ferlesch, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (1:39)
25. "O Fortuna" - Wiener Singakademie, Heinz Ferlesch, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (2:37)
26. Enchanted Night (Arr. for Strings By Huang) - Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu (2:30)
27. Jasmine Flower (Arr. By Zou) - Wiener Singakademie, Shanghai Spring Children's Choir, Heinz Ferlesch, Shanghai Symphony, Long Yu (5:32)

Total Playing Time: 1:07:50

This wondrous live performance also features Aida Garifullina, Toby Spence, Ludovic Tézier, Shanghai Spring Children's Choir, Wiener Singakademie, Heinz Ferlesch, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, and Long Yu.

For my money, and having listened to it twice through now, Mari Samuelson (violin), Daniil Trifonov (piano), Aida Garifullina (soprano), Toby Spence (tenor), and Ludovic Tézier (baritone) are simply showstoppers!

Sure the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and Long Yu are also magically in the mix too, but wow, the aforementioned names are just on fire here.

As noted, this was an exquisite gala concert to celebrate the 120th Anniversary of Deutsche Grammophon and my oh my, what an expansive, seductive, thrilling testament to both DG and the culture of music this show turned out to be. Enjoy!

Official Purchase Link

Title - 'Chopin: Nocturnes, Mazurkas, Berceuse, Sonata'
Artist - Maurizio Pollini

For those not in the know, Maurizio Pollini (born January 5, 1942) is an Italian classical pianist especially noted for his performances of Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Brahms, Schoenberg, Webern and for championing modern composers such as Pierre Boulez, Luigi Nono, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Giacomo Manzoni, Salvatore Sciarrino and Bruno Maderna.

Important modern works have been composed for Pollini, notably Nono's ..... sofferte onde serene ..., Manzoni's Masse: omaggio a Edgard Varèse and Sciarrino's Fifth Sonata.

Pollini has conducted both opera and orchestral music, sometimes leading the orchestra from the keyboard in concertos.

Here on the just released Chopin: Nocturnes, Mazurkas, Berceuse, Sonata, Opp. 55-58, the Italian pianist revisits works by Chopin; including the Third Piano Sonata, the Berceuse, and the two Nocturnes, op. 55, alongside his first recording of the three Mazurkas, op. 56.

01. Nocturne in F Minor, Op. 55 No. 1 (04:37)
02. Nocturne in E-Flat Major, Op. 55 No. 2 (04:42)
03. Mazurka in B Major, Op. 56 No. 1 (04:30)
04. Mazurka in C Major, Op. 56 No. 2 (01:40)
05. Mazurka in C Minor, Op. 56 No. 3 (05:41)
06. Berceuse in D-Flat Major, Op. 57 (04:29)
07. Piano Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58 - 1. Allegro maestoso (12:24)
08. Piano Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58 - 2. Scherzo (Molto vivace) (02:31)
09. Piano Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58 - 3. Largo (07:39)
10. Piano Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58 - 4. Finale (Presto non tanto) (05:14)

Frédéric Chopin made his name in the high-society salons of his native Poland and, above all, in the vibrant Paris of Eugène Delacroix, Victor Hugo and George Sand.

His pieces for solo piano, often technically challenging, always enchanting, are in constant global demand today, especially when brought to life by a performer of Maurizio Pollini’s stature.

To be honest, the 76-year-old Italian musician has been in love with Chopin’s art since childhood, a passion clear in his critically acclaimed recordings of the composer’s works for Deutsche Grammophon.

Ergo, this wondrous, simply divine new collection embraces a lifetime’s dedication to the composer and complements Pollini’s much praised 2017 album, Chopin – Late Works, opp.59–64.

I am a great admirer of Pollini and where some people tend to find his playing too austere or unromantic, I personally feel life being breathed throughout each orchestrated musical work of Pollini art.

Ergo, Pollini does a superb job here on these works, most especially on the Sonata op. 58, in my humble opinion. I mean, it’s easy to think of him as a technician, since his technique is so accomplished but no, he really is a most gifted interpretivist and his recordings always showcase that.

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Title - 'My Double Bass'
Artist - Ödön Rácz

For those not in the know, Ödön Rácz is a fourth generation contrabassist whose great grandfather and grandfather played in ensembles, his father in an orchestra.

The son, born in Budapest in 1981, also chose the same path. He has been a member of Vienna’s State Opera orchestra since 2004 and as such, the successor to his prominent teacher Alois Posch.

Rácz studied the orchestral literature with him and Posch is still today his most important role model as an orchestra musician. His idol as a solo musician is also a former Vienna Philharmonic member Ludwig Streicher, whose soloist tracks Rácz follows on this brand new Deutsche Grammophon recording, My Double Base.

For Streicher, the most prominent contrabassist of his time, the concerti from Vanhal, Dittersdorf and Bottesini were also his declared favorite.

1. Gran Duo Concertante for Violin, Double bass and Strings (15:33)
2. Le Grand Tango (12:16)
3. Divertimento Concertante per contrabasso e orchestra: 1. Allegro: Allegro maestoso (09:160
4. Divertimento Concertante per contrabasso e orchestra: 2. Marcia: Alla marcia, allegramente (03:48)
5. Divertimento Concertante per contrabasso e orchestra: 3. Aria: Andante (05:28)
6. Divertimento Concertante per contrabasso e orchestra: 4. Finale: Allegro marcato (04:52)

With Ödön Rácz on double bass, he is joined amicably by: Noah Bendix on Balgley, violin; János Balázs on piano; and the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra with Speranza Scappucci, conductor.

Having been a fan of Rácz's since 2016's brilliant Concertos For Double Bass (I mean, come on now, even the cover art for that release was inspired!) it was no shock to me to find myself quickly feeling the vibe for his new album from the very off.

Rácz is, quite clearly, a virtuoso, a highly musical bass player with a beautiful tone and the way he plays must surely be inspiring others around the world with a passion for such a big, sometimes awkward instrument (especially to have to carry from gig to gig!) to knuckle down and themselves produce glorious works of musical art such as these new tracks.

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Title - 'State of the Art - Story of Deutsche Grammophon'
Artist - Various

As part of Deutsche Grammophon’s all-inclusive celebration of its 120-year history, a thorough review of this magnificent story is out now in a brand-new coffee table book State of the Art: The Story of Deutsche Grammophon, published in collaboration with Verlhac Editions, Paris.

This new edition is an extended and revised version of the book with the same title originally published in 2009, but this time wonderfully includes a glorious 12-track 180g vinyl LP.

Deutsche Grammophon has done more than any other label to define the classical music scene and recording industry. Ergo, State of the Art is the exclusive full-length history of the legendary Yellow Label, based on unprecedented access to Deutsche Grammophon archives and featuring interviews with artists, historians, producers, engineers and former and current DG executives.

Richly illustrated with hundreds of photographs, State of the Art traces the fascinating history of the label from its founding by Emil Berliner in 1898 to its current status as the home of many of the world's most exceptional artists.

“These are exciting times for classical music,” observes Dr Clemens Trautmann, President Deutsche Grammophon: “Deutsche Grammophon’s 120th anniversary is about sharing classical music’s emotional force and expressive beauty with as many people as possible around the world."

"The Yellow Label’s founders used new technology to inspire millions and – together with our family of artists – we are determined to continue what they started as we engage established and future audiences with our DG120 campaign."

"We are delighted to welcome Google Arts & Culture, Volkswagen Group and our other international partners who are supporting this ambitious global initiative.”

One of the defining characteristics of DG is its long-lasting relationships with the world’s greatest musicians. And here on this brand new 12-track 180g vinyl LP we find a whole host of them coming together to showcase DG in all its true glory.

Side 1:
Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
3 Etudes de concert
1. No. 3 in D flat "Un sospiro" (Allegro affettuoso) - Daniil Trifonov Alfredo Catalani (1854-1893)
La Wally: Act 1
2. Ebben? Ne andro lontana - Anna Netrebko, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Antonio Pappano
Sergey Vasil'yevich Rachamaninov (1873-1943)
10 Preludes, Op. 23
3. No. 5 Alla marcia in G minor - Lang Lang
Gabriel Faure (1845-1924)
4. Berceuse, Op. 16 - Anne-Sophie Mutter, Wiener Philharmoniker, James Levine
Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)
West Side Story - Symphonic Dances
5. Cool Fugue - Los Angeles Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Carnaval, Op. 9
6. Preambule - Daniel Barenboim

Side 2:
Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936)
1. Chant du Menestrel, Op. 71 - Mstislav Rostropovich, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
2. An die Musik, Op. 88 No. 4 - Fritz Wunderlich, Hubert Giesen
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92
3. Allegro con brio - Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Symphony No. 88 in G Major
4. Menuetto (Allegretto) - Berliner Philharmoniker, Wilhelm Furtwangler
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
La Boheme: Act 4
5. O Mimi, tu piu non torni - Enrico Caruso, Antonio Scotti, Unknown Orchestra
6. The voice of Emil Berliner - Emil Berliner

As for the nitty-gritty of the actual art side of this product, well, if truth be told, if you already own the State of the Art book put out by DG in 2009 to celebrate its first 111 years, then you might not find this version worth investing in (save for the inclusion of the vinyl LP, of course).

All the photos in the 2009 book and all but a dozen or so images of LP covers have simply been carried over from this previous book along with the text, of course.

So, in comparison, the new 2019 book has some additional images and texts which cover and update more DG information within those passing years of release ie: 2009-2019, but aside from the aforementioned vinyl LP, well, that's about it DG lovers/collectors.

But, for those who don't already possess the 2009 edition, well, you're in for a right royal treat here, trust me! All the major artists of historical significance are covered in this stunning, so vibrantly colorful book along with historical tidbits that you may or may not even know about each of the DG artists within it, of course.

Extended & Revised Hardback Book
180g Vinyl LP
Bilingual edition book - English and German
LP includes 12 tracks from legendary recordings
Made in Germany

Amazon Purchase Link

Title - 'Sunburst Finish: Expanded & Remastered'
Artist - Be-Bop Deluxe

For those not in the know, Be-Bop Deluxe were an English progressive rock band who achieved critical acclaim and moderate commercial success during the mid to late 1970s.

The band's sound emerged as a mixture of glam rock, prog rock and straightforward rock and roll. Indeed, Science fiction imagery was common in the lyrics, along with the more traditional themes of love and the human condition.

Digitally remastered and now an expanded 2CD edition, Sunburst Finish, the legendary 1976 album by Be-Bop Deluxe, has now been re-released via Esoteric Recordings / Cherry Red Records (UK).

CD 1: The Original Stereo Mix Remastered
1. 'Fair Exchange'
2. 'Heavenly Homes'
3. 'Ships In The Night'
4. 'Crying To The Sky'
5. 'Sleep That Burns'
6. 'Beauty Secrets'
7. 'Life In The Air Age'
8. 'Like An Old Blues'
9. 'Crystal Gazing'
10. 'Blazing Apostles'
11. 'Ships In The Night' (Single Version) - BONUS TRACK

CD 2: The 2018 Stereo Mix
1. 'Fair Exchange'
2. 'Heavenly Homes'
3. 'Ships In The Night'
4. 'Crying To The Sky'
5. 'Sleep That Burns'
6. 'Beauty Secrets'
7. 'Life In The Air Age'
8. 'Like An Old Blues'
9. 'Crystal Gazing'
10. 'Blazing Apostles'
11. 'Ships In The Night' (First Version) - UNRELEASED BONUS TRACK
12. 'Beauty Secrets' (First Version) - UNRELEASED BONUS TRACK
13. 'The Mystery Demo' - UNRELEASED BONUS TRACK
14. 'Crystal Gazing' (Alternate Vocal Version) - UNRELEASED BONUS TRACK
15. 'Crying To The Sky' (First Version) - UNRELEASED BONUS TRACK
16. 'Ships In The Night' (Alternate Vocal Version) - UNRELEASED BONUS TRACK

Featuring an additional 17 bonus tracks drawn from a stunning new stereo mix from the original multi-track tapes by award winning engineer Stephen W. Tayler and previously unreleased out-takes from the album sessions, Starburst Finish was originally recorded in the Autumn of 1975 at Abbey Road studios (with some sessions also taking place at AIR studios in London).

For those who are interested, the first three Be-Bop Deluxe albums are all, in one way or another, named after guitars. "Axe" is slang for a guitar, "Futurama" is a particular make of guitar, while "Sunburst Finish" refers to a style of finishing for the instrument.

Kicking off in some guitar-flaring style with the pop sensibilities of 'Fair Exchange' (which also has a definitive pubescent Queen vibe to it), Sunburst Finish was the third album by Be-Bop Deluxe.

The first to feature the line-up of Bill Nelson (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Charlie Tumahai (bass, vocals), Andy Clark (keyboards) and Simon Fox (drums) it was also the first Be-Bop album to be co-produced by Bill Nelson and John Leckie.

The more sedate 'Heavenly Homes' is up next and is backed by the brilliant hipsway pop flow of 'Ships In The Night,' the quiet Prog of 'Crying To The Sky,' and then both the fast paced 'Sleep That Burns' and the low key Renaissance appeal of 'Beauty Secrets.'

The soaring, flowing guitar weaving 'Life In The Air Age' is a gentle work of Prog wonderment and that's followed by both the finger snappin' 'Like An Old Blues' and the trippy 'Crystal Gazing.' The album, now here as the original stereo mix remastered, rounds out with the anthemic 'Blazing Apostles,' before the first CD finishes with the bonus track, 'Ships In The Night' (Single Version).

The second CD features all the same songs, all be they now recorded as 28 stereo mixes and tags on several previously unreleased bonus tracks. The first of those is 'Ships In The Night' (First Version), 'Beauty Secrets' (First Version), and a three minute acoustic guitar and vocal 'The Mystery Demo.'

The second CD then rounds out with the trio of 'Crystal Gazing' (Alternate Vocal Version), 'Crying To The Sky' (First Version), and 'Ships In The Night' (Alternate Vocal Version).'

The quite magnificent set also features a booklet which restores the original album artwork and includes previously unseen photographs and an essay of recollections by Bill Nelson.

Amazon Purchase Link

Title - 'Classic Years: 1978-1990' [9CD]
Artist - REO Speedwagon

For those not in the know, REO Speedwagon is an American rock band from Champaign, Illinois. Formed in 1967, the band cultivated a following during the 1970s and achieved significant commercial success throughout the 1980s.

Indeed, Hi Infidelity (1980) contained four US Top 40 hits and is the group's best-selling album, with over ten million copies sold.

Over the course of its career, the band has sold more than 40 million records and has charted thirteen Top 40 hits, including the number ones 'Keep On Loving You' and 'Can't Fight This Feeling'.

REO Speedwagon's mainstream popularity may well have waned in the late 1980s, much like en mass of other bands of their ilk, but the band remains a popular live act even today.

With the release of this incredible new 9CD box-set entitled REO Speedwagon Classic Years: 1978-1990 (out March 1st via Cherry Red Records UK), as well as extensive liner notes from Malcolm Dome, this expansive set features a wealth of bonus tracks.

CD 1: You Can Tune A Piano But You Can't Tuna Fish (1978)
1. 'Roll with the Changes'
2. 'Blazin' Your Own Trail Again'
3. 'Time for Me to Fly'
4. 'Lucky for You'
5. 'The Unidentified Flying Tuna Trot'
6. 'Say You Love Me or Say Goodnight'
7. 'Runnin' Blind'
8. 'Do You Know Where Your Woman Is Tonight?'
9. 'Sing to Me'
10. 'Roll with the Changes' (Short Version)
11. 'Roll with the Changes' (Long Version)
12. 'Time for Me to Fly' (Edit)
Live Again - Promo 1978
13. 'Son of a Poor Mann'
14. '(I Believe) Our Time Is Gonna Come'
15. 'Flying Turkey Trot'
16. 'Keep Pushin'
17. 'Ridin' the Storm Out'
18. 'Piano Interlude'
19. '157 Riverside Avenue'

Ok, so this was just a slick pop album and probably the hard-rock and art-rock snobs hated it. Musically, there's nothing original here, and lyrically there's probably nothing original either (how many more song about getting over disappearing love does the world need?). But damnit, slick pop or not, this is good stuff!

Gary Richrath's guitar work is intense, showing that you can have fiery playing in pop music. And when Neal Doughty's keyboards poke their way up past the guitars, they add a rollicking bouncy feel that nonetheless remains consistent with the intense sound of the guitars.

Oh, and this is also a GREAT album because there's no "filler" in it. Every song is good. How 'bout them apples!

CD 2: Nine Lives (1979)
1. 'Heavy on Your Love'
2. 'Drop It (An Old Disguise)'
3. 'Only the Strong Survive'
4. 'Easy Money'
5. 'Rock & Roll Music'
6. 'Take Me'
7. 'I Need You Tonight'
8. 'Meet Me on the Mountain'
9. 'Back on the Road Again'
Bonus Tracks
10. 'Easy Money' (Edit)
11. '157 Riverside Avenue (Live)'
12. 'Ridin' the Storm Out (Live)'

Back in the day, Nine Lives was better than I went in expecting. By this point the band was so commercial-heavy with the power ballad direction that found them worldwide success that I went into the album believing the bands sophomore release would be nothing but.

A track such as 'Back On the Road Again' is an awesome rocker. A scorching, heavy (if not particularly fast moving) guitar riff that dominates the pace all the way through, and vocals that carry the guitar work just fine.

'Meet Me On the Mountain' has another pretty fantastic set of vocals. It's a singalong-type melody that instantly wins the listener over. 'Easy Money' is fairly generic with the loud guitars conveniently being in front of the chorus, but at least the verse melody has room to shine (because that's easily the best part of the song).

The other stand out here is 'Heavy On Your Love,' which showcases Cronin's singing style really well. I mean, when you consider the heavy and upbeat nature of the guitar playing, it's not only a perfect opener, but a personal favorite. REALLY good guitar solo as well.

CD 3: Hi Infidelity (1980)
1. 'Don't Let Him Go'
2. 'Keep on Loving You'
3. 'Follow My Heart'
4. 'In Your Letter'
5. 'Take It on the Run'
6. 'Tough Guys'
7. 'Out of Season'
8. 'Shakin' It Loose'

Hi Infidelity would prove to be REO's most successful album spawning several huge hit singles and sitting on top of the album chart for a multitude of weeks.

Although the public seemed to love it, for older REO fans this one was a huge letdown. REO had been toiling away for years in the Midwest before this thing broke the dam wide open.

'Don't Let Him Go', 'Keep On Loving You', 'Take It On The Run', and 'Tough Guys' were all top 40 hit singles, and pretty much everything else on the record was played on AOR radio.

CD 4: Hi Infidelity - Bonus Tracks
1. 'Someone Tonight'
2. 'I Wish You Were There'
3. 'Someone Tonight'
4. 'Tough Guys'
5. 'In Your Letter'
6. 'Follow My Heart'
7. 'Take It on the Run'
8. 'Don't Let Him Go'
9. Keep on Loving You'
10. Shakin' It Loose'
11. I Wish You Were There'
12. Don't Let Him Go' (Edit)
13. Take It on the Run' (Edit)
14. Don't Let Him Go'
15. Keep on Loving You'
16. Take It on the Run'
17. In Your Letter'
18. Keep on Loving You ('89 Reggae Version)'

CD 5: Good Trouble (1982)
1. 'Keep the Fire Burnin'
2. 'Sweet Time'
3. 'Girl with the Heart of Gold'
4. 'Every Now and Then'
5. 'I'll Follow You'
6. 'The Key'
7. 'Back in My Heart Again'
8. 'Let's Be-Bop'
9. 'Stillness of the Night'
10. 'Good Trouble'

Simply put, if you liked Hi Infidelity this is the perfect musical bookend. In fact, it sounds like Gary Richrath and Neil Dougherty decided to amp up these songs with a more REO-like sound.

But Good Trouble has the same gleam of Infidelity. Kevin sounds more like the 'Ridin' Out The Storm' Kevin. And Bruce Hall makes some nice contributions to the album as well.

'Keep The Fire Burning' is the obvious single, but 'Sweet Time' has an echo of 'Time For Me To Fly' and is rather terrific sounding (should have been a #1 single, in my humble opinion).

'I'll Follow You' completely rocks and finds Neil banging the keyboards with abandon whereas on another underrated favorite of mine, 'The Key,' Kevin gets to stretch his vocals brilliantly.

CD 6: Wheels Are Turnin' (1984)
1. I Do Wanna Know'
2. One Lonely Night'
3. Thru the Window'
4. Rock 'N Roll Star'
5. Live Every Moment'
6. Can't Fight This Feeling'
7. Gotta Feel More'
8. Break His Spell'
9. Wheels Are Turnin'
Bonus Tracks
10. I Do Wanna Know' (Short Version)
11. Live Every Moment' (Edit)
12. Wherever You're Goin' (It's Alright)' (Remix)
13. Gotta Feel More' (Radio Mix Long Version)
14. Gotta Feel More' (Radio Mix Short Version)
15. Wherever You're Goin' (It's Alright)' (from "The Goonies")

This album is directly in line with anything that REO Speedwagon had done before it's release in 1984. There is nothing special, nor specific about this album that they hadn't tackled before. Indeed, the album is as good as anything before it (like Hi Infidelity in 1980).

Much like the aforementioned Hi Infidelity and Good Trouble before it, Wheels Are Turning is yet another slick blend of power pop ('I Do'wanna Know' being the best of its kind) and power ballad ('Can't Fight This Feeling' being the best of its kind).

With the exception of the most underrated REO Speedwagon track, 'Live Every Moment' (which is easily one of their catchiest tunes to date) and the almost-hit of 'One Lonely Night', which was well written and has an extremely catchy bridge, the album is near-flawless.

CD 7:
Life As We Know It (1987)
1. 'New Way to Love'
2. 'That Ain't Love'
3. 'In My Dreams'
4. 'One Too Many Girlfriends'
5. 'Variety Tonight'
6. 'Screams and Whispers'
7. 'Can't Get You Out of My Heart'
8. 'Over the Edge'
9. 'Accidents Can Happen'
10. 'Tired of Gettin Nowhere'
11. 'Variety Tonight' (Edit)
12. 'I Don't Want to Lose You' (The Hits)
13. 'Here with Me' (The Hits)
14. 'Here with Me' (Radio Edit)

Well, as all you fans may well be aware, it took another 3 years before the world had a new REO album and, sadly, this one would prove to be the end of the line for the most famous lineup of the band.

Not to delve too deeply into it, but guitarist and band founder Gary Richrath was in the grips of serious substance abuse by this time while the rest of the band was turning into health nuts.

Furthermore, the album would end up being the last with Richrath who was such an essential part of the REO sound. Drummer Alan Gratzer was also getting tired of the road and would retire soon after the albums release.

That all said, Life As We Know It did continue the band's commercial success with the big hits such as the rocking 'That Ain't Love' and the stirring ballad 'In My Dreams,' both reaching the top 40.

CD 8: The Earth, A Small Man, His Dog and a Chicken (1990)
1. 'Love Is a Rock'
2. 'The Heart Survives'
3. 'Live It Up'
4. 'All Heaven Broke Loose'
5. 'Love in the Future'
6. 'Half Way'
7. 'Love to Hate'
8. 'You Won't See Me'
9. 'Can't Lie to My Heart'
10. 'L.I.A.R'
11. 'Go for Broke'
12. 'All Heaven Broke Loose' (Album Version-More Guitar)
13. 'All Heaven Broke Loose' (Single Version-More Vocal)
14. 'Just for You' (Radio Edit)
15. 'Just for You' (The Ballads, Full Length Version)
16. 'Til the Rivers'

So, if you're following along at home, by the time this album was released founding members Gary Richrath and Alan Gratzer had departed from the group being replaced by Dave Amato and Bryan Hitt (to form the current REO Speedwagon touring lineup.

The album starts off with a handful of mellow tracks such as 'Love Is A Rock', 'The Heart Survives', 'All Heaven Broke Loose', and tracks such as 'L.I.A.R.' and 'Half Way' are definite stand out highlight too.

CD 9: Live 1980-1990
1. 'Don't Let Him Go' (Kemper Arena 1985) 2. 'Tough Guys' (Kemper Arena 1985) 3. 'Take It on the Run' (Kemper Arena 1985) 4. 'I Do Wanna Know' (Kemper Arena 1985) 5. 'Can't Fight This Feeling' (Kemper Arena 1985) 6. 'Keep the Fire Burning' (Rockford Metro Centre 1983) 7. 'Roll with the Changes' (Rockford Metro Centre 1983) 8. 'That Ain't Love' (Kiel Auditorium, St Louis 1987) 9. 'Back on the Road Again' (Blaisdell Arena, Honolulu 1989) 10. 'Live It Up' (Club Eastbrook, Grand Rapids) 11. 'Roll with the Changes' (Denver, Co 1981) 12. 'Ridin' the Storm Out' (Denver, Co 1981) 13. 'Keep on Lovin' You' (Indianapolis, in 1984) 14. 'Johnny B. Goode' (Indianapolis, in 1985) 15. 'Can't Fight This Feeling' (Grand Rapids, Mi 1990) 16. 'Say You Love Me or Say Goodnight' (Alpine Valley, Wi 1980) 17. 'Time for Me to Fly' (St. Louis, Mo 1987).

As well as this expansive 9CD box-set featuring the wealth of aforementioned bonus tracks, there are also extensive liner notes from Malcolm Dome.

Title - 'The Face of Life'
Artist - Kinetic Element

For those not in the know, Kinetic Element is a neo/symphonic progressive rock band from Richmond, Virginia that harbors musical roots in classic artists like Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes, Asia and Genesis and blends those influences with philosophical and spiritually powerful and uplifting lyrics.

Kinetic Element was formed to perform the music of Mike Visaggio's solo CD, Starship Universe which was released in 2006 after Mike was selected to perform at the 2006 Pop Montreal festival.

On their second album, titled Travelog, released on June 1, 2015, vocals were recorded by guests Dimetrius LaFavors of Odin's Court, Michelle Schrotz of Brave, and solo artist Mike Florio.(St. John Coleman had not yet joined the group.)

Kinetic Element - comprised of St. John Coleman (Vocals), Mike Visaggio (Keyboards & Vocals), Mark Tupko (Bass), Michael Murray (Drums & Backing Vocals) and Peter Matuchniak (Guitar) - are now back with their third album, entitled The Face of Life out February 28th, 2019 via Melodic Revolution Records.

1. 'Epistle' (7:06)
2. 'All Open Eyes' (15:52)
3. 'The Face of Life' (19:35)
4. 'Last Words' (4:07)
5. 'Lost Words' (2:55) - Bonus Track

The album, subtitled A Symphony in E Major, is quite the undertaking, of that have no doubt.

Opening with the seven minute prog beauty, 'Epistle,' after a quick spoken word intro we're off and soaring with some incredible musicianship.

Another of my personal favorites is the 15 minute opus 'All Open Eyes' which ebbs and flows with stunning precision. The crescendoing guitars are breathtaking and lead seamlessly into a more acoustic mid section, before launching once more into a fearless musical adventure.

That's Side One of the CD, much like a vinyl album would have it, and so Side Two kicks things off brilliantly by diving straight into the heart of the project with the near 20 minute epic 'The Face of Life.'

Interesting, the final track 'Last Words' (save for the CD bonus cut, 'Lost Words') was actually written back in the '70s and, according to Visaggio, had always been nagging at him from that dark space in the back of his mind.

"And I got this idea to do the first verse as a string quartet which sound is a preset on the new synth I had bought. So we now have something totally out of left field. We recorded the quartet as three tracks (cello, two violas and violin)."

As with the album art for the two previous Kinetic Element albums, Travelog (2015) and Powered by Light (2009), the artwork for The Face of Life has been created by Martin Kornick of Man In The Mountain.

The Face of Life will be released on CD and High-Resolution Digital and for the first time in the band’s history on Vinyl!

Kinetic Element @ Facebook

Title - 'One Day Closer to Yesterday'
Artist - Shumaun

For those not in the know, Shumaun initially started as a solo project by Farhad Hossain (ex singer/guitarist/keyboardist of the Sensory Records progressive metal outfit Iris Divine).

After recording a few demos, he decided to recruit a few friends to help build the project into a full-fledged collaborative band.

Through the course of recording their self-titled debut album, Shumaun went through a period of tribulation while securing a drummer.

Original drummer Tanvir Tomal (ex Iris Divine) had to leave for professional obligations in the middle of the recording sessions and was later replaced with Waqar Khan (Entity Paradigm); who is also well known for his work with the platinum-selling Ali Azmat of the EMI recording artist Junoon (one of South Asia's most successful rock bands).

Waqar remained with the band long enough to record a few tracks on the debut record as well as appear live for some of the earlier shows. He later had to leave due to professional obligations that required relocation.

Drumming legends Travis Orbin (Darkest Hour, Periphery) and Mark Zonder (Fates Warning, Warlord) recorded the remaining drums on the debut record that was released in the fall of 2015.

However, Tanvir Tomal returned to the band by the time the debut album was released. Just in time to promote it in the live circuit.

This coming February 22nd, 2019, Shumaun - Farhad Hossain (Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards); Jose Mora (Bass); Tyler Kim (Guitars); and Tanvir Tomal (Drums) - will release their sophomore album entitled One Day Closer to Yesterday.

1. 'Sensus Divinitatis'
2. 'The Writing’s on the Wall'
3. 'Fear Is'
4. 'Nafsi Ammara'
5. 'City of Gold'
6. 'Central Station'
7. 'Prove Yourself'
8. 'Go'
9. 'Remember Me and I Will Remember You'
10. 'One Day Closer to Yesterday'

The album, once again mixed by Brett Caldas-Lima at Tower Studio in France, is noticeably more raw, heavier than their work before, but the melodies and vocals are never compromised.

The album opens with the soft, yet orchestrated keyboard musings of 'Sensus Divinitatis' and then the pace is truly picked up for the pulsing lead and bass guitar fest of 'The Writing’s on the Wall.'

As we wind our way melodically through this incredible new album, the beautiful 'Fear Is' stands out as being a true highlight along with the ethereal 'Remember Me and I Will Remember You.'

'Central Station' is another of those cuts that you can just lose yourself in, before the ferocious, pounding, melodic and just plain balls out rock God quality of 'Go' is brought forth.

Shumaun @ Facebook

Title - 'Scavenger'
Artist - HOIA

For those not in the know, Prateek Rajagopal aka HOIA takes his love for experimental beyond all expectations by infusing his musical interests into an amalgamation of synth and prog wonderment.

Returning with his debut album as a solo artist titled Scavenger, he begins with the addictive melodies and synth work behind 'Write Across.'

Featuring both Wojtek Deregowski and Colin Edwin, the track has a wondrous underlying belly of late '70s prog with a Midge Ure-esque lite vocal pattern above it; ensuring that the track sets the tone for the album perfectly.

Popularly known for being a virtuoso guitarist, budding film composer and writer/producer for death metal legions GUTSLIT and Indian/American prog metal supergroup The Minerva Conduct, inspired by all-things experimental and progressive, Rajagopal through HOIA is producing really inspired music.

The debut album noticeably features Rajagopal as a vocalist for the first time whereas the glorious, heartfelt instruments are noticeably differing from the way he has composed beforehand.

Using samples of rotating fans and vehicle sounds, analog synthesizers and digital manipulation along with organic instruments like guitars (acoustic, electric), piano and strings, Scavenger has a unique melodic industrial sound that shows definitive progression within the art form for Rajagopal.

“The album deals with human-sentimentality concepts like nostalgia, demise, anxiety and the need to ‘scavenge’ to survive, bubbled in fictitious concepts as individual stories," Rajagopal himself explains. "It isn’t a concept album, but there’s a loose relation across the individual stories.”

1. 'Write Across'
2. 'Escape Orb'
3. 'Electric Wizard'
4. 'Part 2'
5. 'Scavenger'

HOIA Online Store

HOIA @ Facebook

Title - 'Promises Promises'
Artist - Lost Leaders

For those not in the know, Westchester County, NY-based indie act Lost Leaders features two extremely accomplished local musicians: Bryon Issacs (vocals, bass), who is a touring member of The Lumineers, a member of Ollabelle and a member of the legendary Levon Helm’s backing band; and Peter Cole (vocals, bass), who was a member of Lava Baby.

And while both Issacs and Cole have collaborated with each other in some way or another over the years, Lost Leaders can officially trace their origins to Isaac’s time with Levon Helm.

Lost Leaders full-length debut was released in 2014, and the album featured the attention-grabbing single 'I’m Gonna Win,' a track that received airplay on radio stations across the country and appeared on several Best Singles of the Year lists.

They went on to release an EP and have now released their sophomore full-length album, Promises Promises. The David Baron-produced album was recorded at Sun Mountain Studios in The Catskills and finds the duo drawing on their affection for Americana vibes; stories told through the mindscape of such obviously admired storytellers as both Tom Petty and The Raconteurs.

1. 'Extra-Ordinary'
2. 'I Will (Fulfill)'
3. 'People Like Us'
4. 'Probably Why We're Here Today'
5. 'Falling'
6. 'To The Top'
7. 'Fallen Stars'
8. 'All That I Want'
9. 'Wake Me Up'

The album kicks off in fine style with the '90s pop sensibilities of 'Extra-Ordinary' and it has to be said, never lets the listener go until the find chords are stuck on 'Wake Me Up.'

An album chock full of ranging, almost bluesy guitar chords, the choruses are all flashbacks to an era where having a hook-friendly repeat was the norm.

Along the way tracks such as 'I Will (Fulfill),' 'People Like Us,' 'Fallen Stars' and the aforementioned 'Wake Me Up' all fairly bounce melodically along, but all still carry within them a deep-seated anxiety for our times.

For me, one of my personal favorites is 'Probably Why We're Here.' An understated, low brow electric/acoustic cut, of sorts, and one that is driven by the drum beat, the song is about the handling of love; but could easily be reconditioned to be a viewpoint on our current political climate.

Lost Leaders @ Facebook

Title - 'Sweet Release'
Artist - Reese Wynans and Friends

For those not in the know, Reese Wynans is best known as keyboard legend and member of Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble.

Indeed, Reese was in that iconic band from 1985 until Vaughan's tragic death in 1990.

Releasing his first solo album in his 50-year career, Sweet Release (out March 1st, 2019 via J&R Adventures / Mascot Label Group / Provogue Records) is produced by Joe Bonamassa and features incredible guests such as: Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Warren Haynes, Vince Gill, Keb' Mo, Doyle Bramhall II, Bonnie Bramlett, Sam Moore, Chris Layton and more!

1. 'Crossfire'
2. 'Say What!'
3. 'That Driving Beat'
4. 'You're Killing My Love'
5. 'Sweet Release'
6. 'Shape I'm In'
7. 'Hard To Be'
8. 'Riviera Paradise'
9. 'Take The Time'
10. 'So Much Trouble'
11. 'I've Got A Right To Be Blue'
12. 'Soul Island'
13. 'Blackbird'

To say that the entire 13-track album (whose title is a nod to Boz Scaggs’ acclaimed catalogue that Wynans was a big part of) is a celebration of the music that influenced Reese and so many others is beyond putting it mildly.

For Sweet Release, from the opening chords of 'Crossfire' on through the melodic solo piano output of the final cut, 'Blackbird,' is not only a massive showcase of love and devotion and thanks to SRV & Double Trouble via their songs, but other bands of the genre such as the Allman Brothers, bluesmen Otis Rush and Tampa Red.

Also backed here by his Double Trouble bandmates Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton, based on the stunning musical quality of this album, quite why its taken this long for Wynans to bring out solo work is beyond me.

Tracks such as the aforementioned 'Crossfire' (with lead vocals here from Sam Cooke) meld seamlessly with cuts such as 'Say What!', 'Shape I'm In' (all of which feature Kenny Wayne Shepherd on guitar, the latter on vocals also) and both 'Hard To Be' (with Joe Bonamassa on Baritone guitar) and one of my own personal favorites here, the quite infectiously brilliant SRV blues jam 'Riviera Paradise' (with both Bonamassa and KWS on guitars!)

Doyle Bramhall II takes center stage with lead vocals and guitar on Otis Rush's foot-tappin' gem 'You're Killing My Love,' whilst the title track features a melding of vocals from such notables as Vince Gill, Keb’ Mo’, Warren Haynes, Bonnie Bramlett and more.

Bonamassa has long been a fan of Wynans’ work, urging him to create a solo album and championing the project as producer.

"Reese inspires me every day,” Bonamassa professes. “He encouraged me and was the heart and soul of the entire session. All the guest artists performed brilliantly and totally brought their best stuff from the very down beat."

"It was not lost on Reese nor me how blessed we were to work with such talent. All I know is what I know ... I love the man... He is as gracious and a gentleman as he is talented and an icon.”

Over the last five decades, you might have discovered Wynans forging his path with the early nucleus of the Allman Brothers Band or taking the stage with Boz Scaggs or, most likely, saving the ’80s blues scene with Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble.

But, no matter where you first heard him, or how long you've been a fan of his work, Sweet Release is an album that is, without a shadow of a doubt, a must have in your record collections.

And yes, I said record collections as this gorgeously heartfelt and blues honest album will also be released as a wondrous 2LP vinyl set!

Amazon CD Purchase Link

Title - 'It's Only Natural'
Artist - Zan Zone

New York City has long been a place to inspire artists. Countless thousands have tried to claw their way up a slippery slope trying to get some kind of recognition in a city that sets the highest standards for artists, yet also puts up roadblocks at every turn.

For over 20 years, under the somewhat international sounding moniker, Zan Zone, songwriter and guitarist Zan Burnham has been putting together various musical endeavors in that city; releasing four albums, and two EP's.

Recognition has been slow, yet, still positive for as many have observed, overnight success usually takes years - or decades.

Back in 1995, Zan Zone released it's first CD, the self-titled Zan Zone, to critical acclaim and followed that up with a 3-track EP in 1997. In 2005, Zan finally released a second Zan Zone EP, the all-solo, Watching The World and followed that in up 2009 with an all-acoustic CD, Time And Materials.

Then in 2013, Zan Zone released the double-album length project, Shorts. The 73 minute project utilized 19 musicians and singers, recording 13 songs over a three year period.

Now, in late 2018, Zan Zone has just released his latest full-length album, the quite brilliant It's Only Natural.

A freeflowing flashback to the good ol' days of guitar rock, each and every one of the 11 tracks contains perfectly-prescribed melodies and grooves that will have you foot tappin' and hip swaying along, trust me!

1. 'For The Rising Sun'
2. 'It's Only Natural'
3. 'Where There's Smoke'
4. 'He's Coming Home'
5. 'Here I Go Again'
6. 'Mystery'
7. 'Things That Make Me Cry'
8. 'Dem Blues Is Bad'
9. 'Let It Go'
10. 'These Dreams'
11. 'Champagne Enthusiasm'

This wondrous 47-minute long album kicks off with the soaring 'For The Rising Sun,' and then bleeds seamlessly into both the mid tempo title track and the infectious 'Where's There's Smoke.'

Sung by Sabrina Clery, the guitar ballad 'He's Coming Home' is next before Zan Zone's '90s pop rock vibe / vocal (Philip Dessinger) is brought to the fore on the great 'Here I Go Again.'

The quietly melodic 'Mystery' is next and is backed by the ethereal 'Things That Make Me Cry' (Clery) with the down south grit of 'Dem Blues Is Bad' along next.

Clery takes another strong grip on the vocals for the rampant rocker 'Let It Go,' before a lo-fi Americana 'These Dreams' is brought forth. Akin to anything Neil Young has lovingly created, the album rounds out with yet another Clery vocal on the gentle hip sway of the album closer, 'Champagne Enthusiasm.'

Amazon CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Thunder N Lightning'
Artist - Cloutier

For those not already aware, Syracuse-based brothers Mark and Myke Cloutier are an inspired sound rock team here on their debut album as the band Cloutier.

Released at the tail end of 2018, Thunder 'N' Lightning features ten tracks of pure, high-energy blues and rock magic.

Combining rock-based and blues-flavored original, Thunder 'N' Lightning is a powerful experience not to be missed by fans of blues-rock giants such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and guitar masters such as Freddie King, Johnny Winter and Buddy Guy, et al.

1. 'Flipping And Flapping'
2. 'Whispering Howling Wind'
3. 'Every Little Thing'
4. 'I Call Home'
5. 'Hard Luck Man'
6. 'Down'
7. 'Man on the Mountain'
8. 'Dreaming a Dream'
9. 'Green Eyed Foolish Man'
10. 'Thunder and Lightning'

This quite brilliant new foot tappin' blues album kicks off with the thunderous (all pun intended) 'Flipping And Flapping,' before flying seamlessly into both the down and dirty 'Whispering Howling Wind' and the frenetic, early '60s late night horror flick drive-in vibe of 'Every Little Thing.'

The beautiful ballad 'I Call Home' is next and is followed by the mid-tempo blues rock of 'Hard Luck Man' and then the late '70s British alternative punk scene vibe of 'Down' is brought forth.

The foot-stompin' 'Man On The Mountain' is next and is backed by the storytelling sorrow of loss on the 'Dreaming A Dream.' The old school blues jam sound of 'Green Eyed Foolish Man' make this a stand out for me personally before the album (sadly) rounds out with the throat-wrenching passion of the title track.

Amazon CD Purchase Link

Title - '3.2 - The Rules Have Changed'
Artist - Robert Berry

For those not already aware, the working relationship between the legendary keyboard player Keith Emerson and singer and multi-instrumentalist Robert Berry started in 1987.

Iconic manager Brian Lane (Yes, Asia, A-Ha, It Bites, etc.) and Carl Palmer arranged a meeting between the two prolific musicians.

The plan was to form a more melodic, song oriented band (compared to EL&P), which would allow Emerson, Berry and Palmer to follow in the footsteps of the success that Asia and GTR were enjoying in that period.

The result of that collaboration between Emerson, Berry and Palmer was the band 3, and the album ... To The Power of Three released worldwide by Geffen Records in 1988.

The first single, 'Talkin' 'Bout' reached #9 on the Billboard Magazine charts and the band toured the US to support the album.

With the success of the first release, Geffen urged the band to go back into the studio to begin work on a second album, but Emerson felt uncomfortable with Geffen's momentum stifling, inconsistent strategy that ultimately cut the first album's success short; consequently prompting the band to call it quits.

At the time of their breakup several songs were already written for that second release (later released on Robert Berry's solo album, Pilgrimage to a Point ).

However, in October 2015, conversations about a new 3 album started between Robert Berry and Frontiers President, Serafino Perugino as Robert had been speaking to Keith about releasing the long-delayed 3 follow up album.

Along with renewed fan interest in the band and those conversations, Berry had sparked revived enthusiasm from Keith Emerson for pursuing the project.

The exchange of musical ideas and song collaborations ultimately paved the groundwork for this new release to be called 3.2.

Everything was set. Song ideas, studio time, record contract... and then, that dark day. Emerson's untimely death made the album an uncertainty.

Ergo, Robert was left with Keith Emerson's final musical ideas for the project. From old cassette tapes, keyboard parts written over the phone, to long discussions about style, the framework of the album was set and ready to be produced.

After several months of grieving and contemplation about what to do with these co-written songs and musical fragments from Emerson, Robert decided to resume work on the material that was created and craft a record that would ultimately be a fitting tribute to Keith Emerson's musical legacy.

One that at the very same time would re-energize and update the musical style started with 3 some 30 years ago.

Released August 10th, 2018 by Frontiers Music, the final result is the aforementioned 3.2 - The Rules Have Changed, a reboot of the original 3 project, now centered on Robert Berry's amazing talents.

1. 'One By One'
2. 'Powerful Man'
3. 'The Rules Have Changed'
4. 'Our Bond'
5. 'What You're Dreamin' Now'
6. 'Somebody's Watching'
7. 'This Letter'
8. 'Your Mark On The World'

Beginning with the stunning piano work and synth lead in on 'One By One,' that bleeds seamlessly into the prog rock, melodic AOR sounds of 'Powerful Man' before the power ballad 'The Rules Have Changed' is upon us.

The dulcet piano work of the ballad 'Our Bond' is both stunning and alights just perfectly as it flows, with the soaring, towering synth and guitar work of 'What You're Dreamin' Now' a delicious stand out highlight.

The age old, classic, sprawling prog synth sensibilities of 'Somebody's Watching' is yet another highlight here, with the lo-fi acoustic guitar sound of 'This Letter' and the pulsating album closer 'Your Mark On The World' rounding out the album perfectly.

In truth, 3.2 - The Rules Have Changed is a record that deserves to be heard by each and every fan of the great Keith Emerson.

Inclusive of some exquisite musical parts, which every progressive music fan will be delighted to indulge in, this album is, without a shadow of a doubt, for fans of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Asia, John Wetton, GTR, Dream Theater, et al.

Amazon CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Ramagehead'
Artist - O.R.k

For those not already aware, O.R.k., comprising some of contemporary music’s most revered artists, have combined their creative forces once again for a new studio album.

Their first for the ground-breaking UK label Kscope, O.R.k’s Ramagehead will be released on 22nd February, 2019.

The band feature Italy’s celebrated vocalist, producer and award-winning film score composer Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari a.k.a LEF (lead vocals), King Crimson‘s Pat Mastelotto (drums), Porcupine Tree‘s Colin Edwin (bass), Marta Sui Tubi‘s Carmelo Pipitone (guitars).

The new album Ramagehead also features a superstar collaboration in the form of Grammy Award-winner Serj Tankian of System of a Down, who is undoubtedly one of metal’s greatest and most renowned vocalists.

1. 'Kneel to Nothing'
2. 'Signals Erased'
3. 'Beyond Sight'
4. 'Black Blooms'
5. 'Time Corroded'
6. 'Down the Road'
7. 'Some Other Rainbow (Part One)'
8. 'Strangled Words'
9. 'Some Other Rainbow (Part Two)'

Beginning with what sounds like spoken words recorded and played backwards, the melodic, multi-layered brilliance of 'Kneel to Nothing' is backed seamlessly by both the poundingly-atmospheric 'Signals Erased' and the gentle Eastern-vibed ballad 'Beyond Sight.'

Up next is the aforementioned collaboration with Serj Tankian of System of a Down, the stoic 'Black Blooms,' which in turn is followed by the reflective 'Time Corroded' and the inner yearning of 'Down the Road.'

LEF's vocal abilities are truly put to the test on the achingly heartfelt, albeit short 'Some Other Rainbow (Part One),' with the upbeat hip sway of 'Strangled Words' along next.

The album then rounds out with 'Some Other Rainbow (Part Two),' a longer guitar addition to its predecessor, it's the most stunning way to bring this new album to a close.

Amazon Digital Purchase Link

Title - 'The Other Side of the Mountain, Part 2'
Artist - Lee Holdridge

For those not in the know, Varese Sarabande's next Limited Edition (to just 1500 copies) album release is the debut CD release of the soundtrack for The Other Side Of The Mountain, Part 2, by multiple award winning composer Lee Holdridge.

The film was the obvious sequel to the successful 1975 box office hit, 'The Other Side Of The Mountain.' After learning to cope with her quadriplegia and dealing with the death of an old friend, former star downhill skier Jill Kinmont (Marilyn Hassett) accompanies her mother, June (Nan Martin), to their hometown in rural California for a summer vacation.

While in the countryside, Jill falls for charming local trucker John Boothe (Timothy Bottoms), but Jill's issues with her condition threaten to derail her budding relationship with John; but he patiently tries to make their romance work.

This stunning album was transferred from analog tape from the composer’s archive and features a beautiful love theme; which is heard in variations throughout the album, as well as in two songs sung by Merrily Webber (arranged by the composer). 1. 'Love Theme From “The Other Side Of The Mountain, Part 2”: It's Time To Say I Love You' (Merrily Webber) (2:37)
2. 'Holiday (Love Theme)' (Lee Holdridge / Molly-Ann Leikin) (1:54)
3. 'Indian Children's School' (1:28)
4. 'Saturday Night Hoedown' (2:05)
5. 'Jill's Loneliness' (1:54)
6. 'Summer Night (Love Theme)' (Lee Holdridge / Molly-Ann Leikin) (1:35)
7. 'First Kisses And Summer Meadows' (1:47)
8. 'Romantic Idyll' (2:22)
9. 'Alone Together (Love Theme)' (Lee Holdridge / Molly-Ann Leikin) (2:22)
10. 'Love Theme' (Lee Holdridge / Molly-Ann Leikin) (2:17)
11. 'I Hear It Rain' (Merrily Webber) (2:51)
12. 'On The Road (Love Theme)' (Lee Holdridge / Molly-Ann Leikin) (2:19)
13. 'Montage' (5:23)
14. 'John's Determination' (3:10)
15. 'Love Theme From “The Other Side Of The Mountain, Part 2”: / It's Time To Say I Love You (Reprise)' (Merrily Webber) (2:50)

In truth, fans of not only the film but this gorgeous soundtrack have requested this score on CD for years now. It actually was first released back in 1978 on vinyl and has been known to sell for a pretty penny too.

That said, and as a newcomer to the album, in general, it should be re-pointed out that, as aforementioned, the Holdridge's beautiful love theme is, for all intents and purposes, on repeat via interpretive variations throughout.

Still the yearningly beautiful 'Love Theme From “The Other Side Of The Mountain, Part 2”: It's Time To Say I Love You' sung by Merrily Webber and backed by the sweeping orchestra Holdridge employed makes it a rather delightful flashback to simpler times.

The gently gracious subtlety of 'Holiday (Love Theme)' (featuring Molly-Ann Leikin) is delightful also, as are all the tracks, to be fair. Other stand outs are the stirring 'Jill's Loneliness,' the atmospheric 'First Kisses And Summer Meadows,' and both the Webber-sung 'I Hear It Rain' and the wondrous 'Montage' (Lakeside Morning; Nighttime Thoughts; The Accident; Bittersweet Memories; and Sad Remembrances).

Official CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Joint Effort'
Artist - Humble Pie

For those not in the know, Humble Pie was an English rock band formed by Steve Marriott in Essex during 1969.

They are known as one of the late 1960s' first supergroups and found success on both sides of the Atlantic with such songs as "Black Coffee", "30 Days in the Hole", "I Don't Need No Doctor" and "Natural Born Bugie".

The original band line-up featured lead vocalist and guitarist Steve Marriott from Small Faces, vocalist and guitarist Peter Frampton from The Herd, former Spooky Tooth bassist Greg Ridley and a 17-year-old drummer, Jerry Shirley, from The Apostolic Intervention.

Now released as a digitally remastered archive recording (February 8th, 2019 via Cleopatra Records), Joint Effort is a very special "lost album" recorded in 1974-75 at Clear Sounds Studio with that very same aforementioned classic line-up.

1. "Think">br> 2. "This Ol' World"
3. "Midnight of My Life"
4. "Let Me Be Your Lovemaker"
5. "Rain"
6. "Snakes & Ladders"
7. "Good Thing"
8. "A Minute of Your Time"
9. "Charlene"
10. "Think 2"

This never-before-heard album of original compositions by the band along with some rather blazing covers of James Brown ("Think"), The Beatles ("Rain") and Betty Wright ("Let Me Be Your Lovemaker") now comes packaged with liner notes and rare photos.

The funky brilliance of Brown's "Think" is first out the traps and is something fabulous to behold, trust me. The slow-roll of "This Ol' World" is next and is backed seamlessly by both the laid back, mid tempo ballad "Midnight Of My Life" and an excellent gravelly vocal on Wright's "Let Me Be Your Lovemaker."

Their take on the Beatles' "Rain" is one chock full of reaching, yet unlabored hip sway and that's followed by the raucous delights of "Snakes & Ladders", the gentle piano blues of "Good Thing" along next.

The beautiful love ballad "A Minute Of Your Time" brings forth more deep, gravel-laced vocals, before the funky lead and bass guitars come back for the splendid "Charlene."

A recounting of Brown's song in the form of "Think 2" rounds the album out splendidly and ensures that all fans of this band, let alone of the music of that era, will thoroughly enjoy this lost gem.

Official CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Ape Shifter II'
Artist - Ape Shifter

Progressive Rock ensemble Ape Shifter released their melodically forceful self-titled debut album back in March 2017 and will now bring forth their sophomore album, Ape Shifter II this coming March 2019.

Featuring an all instrumental 13 track set that reaches from rockin' '70s riffs played with punk rock ferocity to creeping metal grooves, they have also been described as playing an intense Simian instrumental rock from the nasty pits of the Hellabrunn Zoo!

1. 'GRAVITY' (2:58)
2. 'HASKETT' (1:18)
4. 'SHOEGAZER' (3:28)
5. 'AMERICAN EAGLE' (4:04)
6. '7 YEARS FAT, 7 YEARS LEAN' (4:26)
8. 'FU MANCHU' (1:30)
9. '8 SHOT' (2:25)
13. 'MATILDA' (2:07)

The progressive, loud, but always melodic instrumental rock that Ape Shifter - Jeff Aug (guitar); Florian Walter (bass); and Kurty Münch (drums) - perform is always of the highest quality and here on their second album they noticeably seem to have relaxed into their orchestrated musical comfort zones just perfectly.

So much so that the instrumental power trio plays each track here with such dedication that their up-tempo prog rock sounds like it could have been one long, and beautifully fulfilling jam band session.

Whereas the band’s self-titled debut album brought all this same vibe out of our speakers and into our minds, this follow-up seems to apply other layers to its live ambiance.

From the very first track the band don't hang about in getting on with the job for 'Gravity' powers in and off from the very first beat. The same could then be said of 'Haskett,' the powerfully stunning 'Mask Of The Ancient Warrior,' and all that follow, in truth.

You see, unlike a lot of prog rock bands out there, Ape Shifter don't expect you to sit through 10 minute opus' instead creating 13 tracks that range from .78 seconds on through to just over 4 minutes.

My personal favorite is the mi-tempo hipsway of the addictive 'American Eagle,' with another being the cymbal and drum-led epic 'Die Rausschmeißer.' That said, the wicked guitar work on both '8 Shot' and 'Jiggy Jiggy Boom Boom' are also something breathtaking to behold.

Ape Shifter @ Facebook

Title - 'The Albums: 1987-2007' [4CD Box-Set]
Artist - 999

For those not in the know, 999 are an English punk rock band, formed in London in December, 1976.

From the period of 1976 to 1985, the line-up of 999 consisted of Nick Cash (vocals, guitar), Guy Days (lead guitar), Jon Watson (bass guitar) and Pablo LaBrittain (drums).

LaBrittain was temporarily replaced in 1980 by drummer Paul Edward aka 'Ed Case' while he recovered from a motor accident and bassist Jon Watson left the band in 1985 and was replaced by Danny Palmer; who himself was succeeded by Arturo Bassick in 1991.

Between 1978 and 2007, 999 released fourteen singles and twelve studio albums. Five of the singles released by 999 between 1978 and 1981 charted within the Top 75 in the UK Singles Chart, with one further single released by 999 in 1978, "Homicide", charting within the Top 40.

In addition, as a result of extensive touring in the United States in the early 1980s, the band's third and fourth studio albums: The Biggest Prize in Sport and Concrete, each charted on the U.S. Billboard 200.

Despite having formed in 1976, 999 have only experienced two permanent changes to their original line-up and has continued to record and play live, leading AllMusic to describe the band as "one of the longest-lived groups of the punk era."

Following on from the success of their first 999 box-set (The Albums: 1977-80), Cherry Red Records UK now present a further four albums from one of the aforementioned founding fathers of the whole Punk Rock movement.

Concentrating on the years 1987-2007 this 4-CD clam shell box-set contains an amazing 61 more tracks!

CD 1: Lust Power And Money (Live)
1. 'Inside Out'
2. 'Hit Me'
3. 'Don't You Know I Need You'
4. 'White Trash'
5. 'Feelin' Alright with the Crew'
6. 'Obsessed'
7. 'On the Line'
8. 'Let's Face It'
9. 'Emergency'
10. 'English Wipe Out'
11. 'Nasty Nasty'
12. 'Homicide'
13. 'Lust Power and Money'
14. 'My Street Stinks'
15. 'Titanic Reaction'
16. 'I'm Alive'

Recorded at the legendary Klub Foot in London it has a track listing that reads like a “Greatest Hits Live” compilation, with classics such as ‘Nasty Nasty’, ‘Emergency’ and ‘Homicide’ all included.

Kicking off with some rather triumphant introductory backing track sounds, both 'Inside Out' and 'Hit Me' are glorious introductions to what to expect from the album.

Even though they are forever labelled as one of the founding fathers of the whole Punk Rock movement, there's nothing on this live album that screams all-out Punk Rock angst, in truth.

Further tracks such as the Wild West-inspired 'Obsessed,' the melodic pop rock of 'On The Line,' and both the brilliantly reaching 'Emergency' and drumtastic 'Homicide' are all further evidence that 999 were way more pop punk than they ever were balls-deep punk.

CD 2: You Us It!
1. Black Flowers for the Bride'
2. There Is No Glory in Mary's Story'
3. Signed Dangerous of Hollywood'
4. Bye Bye Bones'
5. Everybody Needs It'
6. It's Over Now'
7. Bye Bye England'
8. All of the Days'
9. Big Fast Car'
10. Absolution'
11. Deep in the Shadow'
12. Run for Your Life'
13. Don't Tell Me'
14. Crazy Crazy Crazy'
15. White Light'

The second disc in this wonderful box-set features 1993’s ‘comeback’ album You Us It! which saw the addition of new member Arturo Bassick, formerly of The Lurkers.

After 3 consecutive live albums, 999 released You Us It! and you simply cannot tell it had been that long given the musical depth and scope of this terrific album.

The band follow their well-received and now accepted recipe of two-and-a-half-minute songs, but this time it feels like the inspiration lyrically has waned.

Much like they were relying on lyrics of days gone by to still be of some concern to their legion of fans. Chock full of simple melodies, sure you can't help but think you've already heard it all before (as you most likely had), but tracks like 'Black Flowers,' 'Bye Bye Bones' and definitely 'Absolution' are all a wee bit stronger, bolder in the mix here, that's for sure.

CD 3: Takeover
1. 'Takeover'
2. 'Didn't Mean to'
3. 'No Prisoners'
4. 'Headcase'
5. 'Salvage Mission'
6. 'Fit Up'
7. 'Out of Our Heads'
8. 'I Can't Wait'
9. 'Split Personality'
10. 'Damp with Tears'
11. 'Edge of the World'
12. 'Falling'
13. 'Really Like You'
14. 'Jam Me Up (With Something Nice)'
15. 'Pile Up'

The third disc is the Takeover album which was originally released in 1997 by seminal Indie label Abstract Records.

Here we find the lyrics having been spiced up a little and inclusive of some funny wink-wink lines, the songs are upbeat and also, in places, a little funny throughout.

'Salvage Mission, 'Didn't Mean To, 'I Can't Wait,' and 'No Prisoners' are just a few of the tracks that, although more mature in nature, could have fit on any of the first four albums.

Sure this album, much like its predecessor has their simplest stuff ever produced, but 999 had something and their fans loved it regardless.

CD 4: Death In Soho
1. 'Gimme the World'
2. 'The System'
3. 'Innocent'
4. 'Last Breath'
5. '99 Days'
6. 'Rock 'N Roll World'
7. 'Get Off the Phone'
8. 'Horror Story'
9. 'Stealing Beauty'
10. 'What Do You Know'
11. 'Deep Peace'
12. 'Too Much Money'
13. 'Life of Crime'
14. 'The Avenue'
15. 'Bomb You'

The fourth and final disc is 2007’s Death In Soho album which features the single ‘Gimme The World’ and is – at present – the last studio album issued by the band.

Celebrating their 30th Anniversary with the release of this album, and with three of the four original members still rockin' the rafters (Nick Cash, Guy Days and Pablo Labritain), Death in Soho is yet another fine release from the quartet; and was, after yet another hiatus, their first studio album in nearly nine years.

Recordings songs now more akin to the sound of their earlier punk rock days, this album, in my humble opinion, lovingly reverted 999's sound back to their good old days.

Still going strong to this day, 999 are the only band to have played every one of the “Rebellion” Punk Festival’s in all its guises and they already have the following dates confirmed for 2019:

March 8 - Doncaster, The Leopard
March 9 - London, Camden, Dublin Castle
March 10 - Minehead, Great Music Alternative Music Festival
March 21 - Germany,Hamburg, Monkeys Music Club
March 22 - Germany, Dusseldorf, Haus Der Jugend
March 23 - Germany, Berlin, SO36
April 4 - Exeter, The Cavern
April 5 - Plymouth, The Junction
April 6 - Nottingham, The Maze
April 19 - Stamford, Mama Liz’s
April 20 - Harpenden, Public Halls
April 21 - Stockton On Tees, Georgian Theatre
May 4 - Birmingham, The Mill
May 5 - Coventry, The Arches
May 10 - Sheffield, The Corporation
May 11 - Cardiff, Tramshed
June 15 - Bedford Esquires
June 16 - London New Cross, Amersham Arms
June 27 - Worcester Marrs Bar
June 28 - Bournemouth Anvil Rock Club
June 29 - Corby White Heart
August 3 - Blackpool Winter Gardens, Rebellion Festival

4CD Box-Set Purchase Link

999 @ Twitter!

Title - 'Show Me The Way: The Columbia Anthology'
Artist - Regina Belle

For those not in the know, Regina Belle is an American singer–songwriter and actress who first started her career in the mid–1980s.

Known for her singles, 'Baby Come to Me' (1989) and 'Make It Like It Was' (1990), Belle is actually most notable for two hit duets, both with Peabo Bryson.

The first was 'Without You', the love theme from the comedy film Leonard Part 6, recorded in 1987, the other 'A Whole New World', the main theme of the Disney's animated feature film Aladdin, recorded in 1992; with which Belle and Bryson won a Grammy Award.

Indeed, and furthermore, the theme song 'Far Longer Than Forever' from the animated movie The Swan Princess, performed with Jeffrey Osborne was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1995 for Best Original Song.

SoulMusic Records via Cherry Red Records UK is now readying themselves to bring out this February 22nd, 2019 Show Me The Way: The Columbia Anthology, a 29-track retrospective drawn from the four albums recorded by award-winning songstress Belle between 1987-1995.

This anthology features the original album versions of ten of Belle's US charted singles including the classics, 'So Many Tears', 'Show Me The Way', 'This Is Love', 'If I Could' and her two #1 US R&B hits, 'Baby Come To Me' and 'Make It Like It Was.'

The 2CD collection also features the UK/European-only charted single 'Good Lovin' as well as duets with James "JT" Taylor ('All I Want Is Forever'), Johnny Mathis ('Better Together') and Peabo Bryson ('I Can't Imagine'). It also contains a 1987 "Cool Mix" of 'So Many Tears'.

Prime tracks from Belle's 1987 All By Myself debut LP, her two certified gold albums - 1989's Stay With Me and 1993's Passion - and her final Columbia set, 1995'S Reachin' Back selected for this anthology showcase her vocal prowess and dexterity as a stellar lyrical interpreter on a diversity of material.

CD 1:
1. 'You Got the Love' (Remix)
2. 'Gotta Give It Up'
3. 'Good Lovin''
4. 'How Could You Do It to Me' (Remix)
5. 'Show Me the Way'
6. 'Please Be Mine'
7. 'After the Love Has Lost It's Shine'
8. 'Baby Come to Me'
9. 'Intimate Relations'
10. 'This Is Love'
11. 'All I Want Is Forever' (James "JT" Taylor & Regina Belle)
12. 'Make It Like It Was'
13. 'It Doesn't Hurt Anymore'
14. 'What Goes Around'
15. 'So Many Tears'

We begin this seductive musical journey with the wonderfully funky dancefloor beauty 'You Got The love' (Remix), a track that fairly bounces out of the speakers into your heads, hearts and feet! The finger-snappin' gem 'Gotta Give It Up' is next and is backed by both the funk of 'Good Lovin' and the slow roll of 'How Could You Do It to Me.'

The mid tempo ballad 'Show Me The Way' is followed seamlessly by the saxophone ballad 'Please Be Mine' and then the first forthright ballad 'After the Love Has Lost It's Shine.' Then comes the seductive Baby Come To Me,' the wonderful hipsway of 'Intimate Relations,' before we get one of the obvious stand out cuts, the powerful R&B duet with James "JT" Taylor on 'All I Want Is Forever.'

A trio of ballads - 'Make It Like It Was,' 'It Doesn't Hurt Anymore' and 'What Goes Around - together with the closer, the slow R&B groove of 'So Many Tears' then proceed to round out the first disc perfectly.

CD 2:
1. 'Do You Wanna Get Serious'
2. 'Interlude/Passion'
3. 'Quiet Time'
4. 'Love'
5. 'Someday We'll All Be Free/Save the Children'
6. 'If I Could'
7. 'Dream in Color'
8. 'Better Together' - with Johnny Mathis
9. 'Could It Be I'm Falling in Love'
10. 'Love T.K.O'
11. 'I'll Be Around'
12. 'You Make Me Feel Brand New'
13. 'I Can't Imagine' - Peabo Bryson (Feat. Regina Belle)
14. 'So Many Tears' (Cool Mix)

The second disc opens with the mid tempo ballad 'Do You Wanna Get Serious,' which is followed by the brilliant vibe of 'Interlude/Passion' and then the Barry White "intro'd" 'Quite Time.'

The beautiful ballads 'Love,' 'Someday We'll All Be Free/Save the Children,' 'If I Could,' and the stand out cut (in my humble opinion) 'Dream In Color' are next and then comes another duet, this time with Johnny Mathis on 'Better Together.'

The joyous fun of The Spinners cover 'Could It Be I'm Falling in Love' is then backed by the Teddy Pendergrass cover 'Love T.K.O.,' and then another Spinners cut in 'I'll Be Around.'

A sultry cover of The Stylistics' 'You Make Me Feel Brand New' is always wonderful to hear and that's followed by her ballad duet with Peabo Bryson 'I Can't Imagine.' The second disc then rounds out with another version (the Cool Mix) of 'So Many Tears.'

Liner notes by renowned US writer Kevin Goins include quotes from producers Nick Martinelli, Narada Michael Walden and Barry Eastmond among others.

2CD Purchase Link

Regina Belle @ Facebook

Title - '33'
Artist - Simon Ghraichy

For those not in the know, Simon Ghraichy (born in 1985) is a French pianist of Lebanese and Mexican heritage, living in Paris, France.

After a cosmopolitan childhood and teenage life (Lebanon, Mexico, Canada), Ghraichy landed in Paris and entered the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Boulogne-Billancourt at age 16.

He was admitted to the Conservatoire de Paris in 2004 then to the Sibelius Academy of Helsinki in 2008. He studied with Michel Beroff, Daria Hovora and Tuija Hakkila.

He also participated in masterclasses with famous pianists such as Cyprien Katsaris, Jean-Philippe Collard, Gergely Bogányi and Jerome Lowenthal.

In June 2014, Simon Ghraichy played for the French and American UN-soldiers in Bamako, Mali.

In 2015, Simon Ghraichy played at the Festival International d'Art Lyrique d'Aix-en-Provence, at the Killington Music Festival in the United States, at the Baalbeck International Festival in Lebanon for the 60th edition, at Bard Music Festival in New York City with the American Symphony Orchestra and was invited at the Lisztomanias Festival in France.

He made his Carnegie Hall recital debut in October 2015 and also played at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC in March 2016 and at the Berlin Philharmonie in the fall of 2016.

On his sophomore album for Deutsche Grammophon (the title alludes to the pianist’s age at the time of recording), 33, the French pianist Simon Ghraichy presents his personal selections, including two world premiere recordings commissioned by Ghraichy himself: Chilly Gonzales’s 'Robert on the Bridge' and Jacopo Baboni Schilingi’s 'HUGE,' as well as pieces by Glass, Nyman, Schumann, and more.

1. 'Recuerdos de la Alhambra' - Transcr. for Piano By Simon Ghraichy (4:29)
2. 'No.8 in a Flat minor: La Chanson de la Folle Au Bord de la Mer' (3:20)
3. 'Alfonsina y El Mar' - Transcr. for Piano By Simon Ghraichy (2:47 )
4. '1. Einfach' (5:41)
5. '2. Hastig' (4:58 )
6. '3. Einfach Und Zart' (4:32 )
7. '4. Innig' (5:19)
8. '5. Zum Beschluss' (6:01 )
9. 'Robert on the Bridge' (4:16 )
10. 'Raising the Sail' (4:14 )
11. 'Time Lapse - Piano Version' (3:21 )
12. 'I. Presto Ritmico Sempre Staccato E Secco' (6:23)
13. 'II. Prestissimo Senza Metro Ma Ritmico' (7:33)
14. 'HUGE' (5:35)
15. 'Tema' (0:50)
16. 'I. Un Poco Maestoso' (1:21)
17. 'II.' (0:45)
18. 'III.' (1:08)
19. 'IV.' (0:35)
20. 'V. Prestissimo' (0:56)
21. 'VI.' (0:44)
22. 'VII. Presto' (1:03)
23. 'VIII. Cantando' (0:52)
24. 'IX. Passionato' (1:56)

The beautifully precise, crisp and precise piano work of 'Recuerdos de la Alhambra' brings us first into h world here on 33 and that's backed by the sterner '25 Preludes, Op.31 / 1st Suite : No.8 in A flat minor: La chanson de la folle au bord de la mer,' before the his delicate sided takes over again on the truly beautiful 'Alfonsina y el mar.'

Ghraicy's 'Humoreske, Op.20' quintet is a near 30 minute segment of pure, unadulterated piano maestro brilliance (and my own personal favorite works here on this new album) and they are backed by the stern, yet gently playful 'Robert on the Bridge.'

The gently flowing, quiet beauty of 'Raising the Sail' is then followed by a similar track in 'Time Lapse (Piano Version).' The pairing of both 'Deux études pour piano : I. Presto ritmico sempre staccato e secco' and its more freeflowing companion piece 'Deux études pour piano : II. Prestissimo senza metro ma ritmico' are gems to behold also, of course.

The raging of 'HUGE' is next and then this quite magical, simply stunning new album from Ghraichy rounds out with the ten-part movement, 'Etudes in Variation Form on a Theme by Beethoven, WoO 31.'

Collectively falling at just under 10 minutes the entire set, we begin with the quietly thoughtful and pensive 'Tema' and the slightly more upbeat, summer's day in a grassy meadow 'I. Molto moderato,' enjoy the faster pacing of 'IV. Prestissimo,' before ending with the spritely paced 'VIII. Passionato' and the quiet solitude of 'XI.'

Amazon Purchase Link

Simon Ghraichy @ Twitter

Title - Shostakovich Under Stalin's Shadow: Sym Nos. 6 & 7
Artist - Andris Nelsons / Boston Symphony Orchestra

For those not in the know, Andris Nelsons (born 18 November 1978) is a Latvian conductor.

Indeed, he is currently the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Gewandhauskapellmeister of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) is an American orchestra based in Boston, Massachusetts. It is one of the five major American symphony orchestras commonly referred to as the "Big Five".

Founded in 1881, the BSO plays most of its concerts at Boston's Symphony Hall and in the summer performs at Tanglewood. Bernard Haitink currently holds the title of conductor emeritus of the BSO, and Seiji Ozawa has the title of BSO music director laureate.

In their inaugural release on Deutsche Grammophon, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and its Music Director Andris Nelsons were heard in live performances of Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10 and the Passacaglia from his opera "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk."

This disc was the first in a series of five live-performance CDs entitled Shostakovich Under Stalin's Shadow, to encompass the composer's symphonies 5-10 and other works written in the period from the mid-1930s; when Shostakovich fell from Stalin's favor, to 1953, the year of the dictator's death.

And so, after the highly successful SYMPHONY NO. 10 in 2015, the sheer expressive beauty of SYMPHONIES NOS. 5, 8, 9 from 2016, and the overbearing vividness of the most recent SYMPHONIES NOS. 4 & 11, Nelsons and the BSO continue the Grammy-winning cycle with SYMPHONIES NOS. 6 & 7.

Here on this wondrous 2CD set, the symphonies are complemented by two other works by Shostakovich, the Suite from the Incidental Music to King Lear, Op. 58a and the Festive Overture, Op. 96.

CD 1:
1-3 Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 54
4-14 Suite from the incidental music to "King Lear" op. 58a
15 "Festive Overture" op. 96

CD 2:
1-4 Symphony No. 7 in C major "Leningrad" op. 60

As all fans of this music and of Nelsons himself, of course, can all ready attest to, his Shostakovich Under Stalin's Shadow works with the BSO are, one and all, simply incredible.

The tones of strings and woodwind principals together with the crucial climaxes have punch as well as the right pulling out or back to articulate the centers of their exquisitely crafted gravities.

Once again, Nelsons has taken charge of Americas most cultured orchestra and, given recording of unparalleled naturalness, height and depth. In truth, this latest 2CD set sounds absolutely wonderful and I honestly don't know how it could have sounded any better under anybody else's direction.

Indeed, and furthermore, you are there, under the shadow, lurking in the shadows created by Nelsons and the BSO. And yet there is humor and mirth that struggles for the light against the great suffering and struggle.

The playing and phrasing are immaculate. Soft passages are played with almost inaudible precision. As intended. There are also great moments of orchestrated momentum yet also marvelous reflection within them.

Assured conducting and virtuosity on display means that Shostakovich Under Stalin's Shadow: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 7 is yet another fine entry; and one that might well have you clapping and shouting your approval of once the second disc has concluded.

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Title - 'Fiddler's Blues - Ysaÿe, Ravel, Debussy, et al'
Artist - Philippe Graffin / Claire Désert

For those not in the know, Philippe Graffin (born 1964) is a French violinist and recording artist born in Romilly-sur-Seine, France.

The French Violinist Philippe Graffin was a student of the late Joseph Gingold and Philippe Hirschhorn and has established a particular reputation for his interpretations of his native repertoire as well for his interest in rare and contemporary works.

He rediscovered original settings of classics such as Chausson's Poème and Ravel's Tzigane and has also championed the forgotten violin concertos of G. Fauré and the concerto by English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

Claire Désert (born 1967) is a French classical pianist born in Angouleme, France.

Désert began learning the piano at the age of five and at fourteen, she joined the Conservatoire de Paris (CNSMDP).

A student of French composer Jean Hubeau, she won the First prize for chamber music.

Philippe Graffin's virtuosity combined with his skills as a sleuth have led to the world-premiere recording of a Posthumous solo violin sonata by Eugene Ysaÿe; an astonishing discovery that extends the Belgian composer's canon of his essential six sonatas for the medium.

Philippe unearthed the nearly-completed manuscript in the library of the Brussels Conservatoire, and polished off the final movement in the most Ysaÿe-esque manner possible.

Philippe's penchant for intuitive programming is brought to bear on the just-released musical gem Fiddler's Blues, a recording that combines two Ysaÿe works - including another premiere, with a pair of folksy, Bohemian-flavored works by George Enescu; another virtuoso violinist/composer who emigrated from his native Romania and like Ysaÿe settled in Paris.

Indeed, Enescu was a classmate of Maurice Ravel whose Berceuse sur le nom de Gabriel Faure is an affectionate nod to their teacher at the Paris Conservatoire, whilst his azure-tinged Violin Sonata influences the album's title.

Ravel's slightly older contemporary Claude Debussy befriended Ysaÿe and whereas Ysaÿe soared writing works for solo violin, Debussy wrote none.

Suggesting how such a work may have sounded, Philippe contributes his own arrangement for solo violin of Debussy's enduring piece Claire de lune.

Eugène Ysaÿe (1858 – 1931)
Sonate posthume pour violon seul, Op. 27bis (9.18) *
1. I. Allegro molto moderato ma con brio (3.39)
2. II. Canzona: Lento e mesto (3.30)
3. III. Finale: Giocoso (2.08)

Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937)
Violin Sonata No. 2 in G (17.09)
4. I. Allegretto (7.44)
5. II. Blues: Moderato (5.26)
6. III. Perpetuum mobile: Allegro (3.58)

Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918)
7. Claire de lune (5.04) *
(Transcribed for solo violin by David Matthews and Philippe Graffin; dedicated to Eugène Ysaÿe)

Eugène Ysaÿe (1858 – 1931)
8. Petite Fantasie romantique (4.59) *

George Enescu (1881 – 1955)
Violin Sonata No. 3 in A minor, Op. 25 (26.08) ‘Dans le caractère populaire roumain’
9. I. Moderato malinconico (9.20)
10. II. Andantino sostenuto e misterioso (8.25)
11. III. Allegro con brio, ma non troppo mosso (8.23)

Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937)
12. Berceuse sur le nom de Gabriel Fauré (2.43)

George Enescu (1881 – 1955)
13. Hora Unirii (1:52)

Total time: 68.15

* World Premiere recordings

Featuring the classical pianist Claire Désert at all quarters, Fiddler's Blues is an album that just has to be heard to be believed. Simply reviewing it here, explain it so to speak, is like asking someone to "taste" the cake you have just baked - whilst they are on a Skype chat!

As noted, Graffin has established an indisputable reputation for his interpretations of the French repertoire and here on this near 70 minute recording he, quite possibly (depends on your own personal take, of course) excels himself.

"The Sonate posthume was a very unexpected discovery," Graffin recounts. "It seems that none of Ysaÿe’s students knew about it. Interesting, considering that it was his students who actually premiered each of the Op.27 solo sonatas."

"What I found was not merely sketches but an actual first draft – very clear and well worked out. There are two questions that now puzzle me. Firstly, why did Ysaye abandon it, as he had almost completed its last movement?"

"Secondly, how could this work have lain forgotten for so long in a sketch book passed between violinists? I guess the first question could be an answer for the second."

"But, to speculate on the first question, it seems probable that the question of key was important for Ysaÿe, as some scribble on the corner of a page nearby in the sketch book seems to suggest a key comparison with Bach’s sonatas and partitas, and therefore could be our first clue."

"Bach ends his cycle with his Third Partita written in the ever-brilliant key of E major, and so does Ysaÿe in his published Sixth. I finished the piece in the most Ysaÿe-esque way I could, and I am proud to say that most of what you hear is still really by Ysaÿe."

"I do not know why this work has remained hidden for so long, but it is all the more amazing to discover it today, as if it were a message in a bottle sent across time."

As for this transcription of Debussy’s famous Clair de lune, well, it was initially created by composer David Matthews at Graffin’s very own request, but he found the transcription unplayable on the violin!

So, what does Graffin do? Well, he rewrote the entire thing himself. Indeed, Graffin states in the liner notes of this wonderful new CD that the finished piece now resembles a piece by, of course, you guessed it, Ysaÿe.

Official CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Schumann: Papillons, Kinderszenen - Brahms'
Artist - Sarah Beth Briggs

For those not in the know, Sarah Beth Briggs (1972) is a British classical pianist born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

Briggs was a finalist in the BBC Young Musician competition at the age of 11 in 1984 and one of the youngest recipients of a Dame Myra Hess Award at the same age.

She was also joint winner of the International Mozart Competition in Salzburg at the age of 15.

She studied in Newcastle, York and Birmingham with Denis Matthews, in Switzerland with one of Claudio Arrau's most renowned students, Edith Fischer and, through a Hindemith Foundation chamber scholarship, with Bruno Giuranna.

A soloist and chamber musician, she has broadcast, performed live and given masterclasses in the UK, around Europe and the USA and has worked with many international orchestras including, but not beholden to: London Mozart Players, London Philharmonic, English Chamber Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic, Manchester Camerata, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, BBC Concert Orchestra, Royal Northern Sinfonia, and the Vienna Chamber Orchestra.

She was a founder member of Trio Melzi (2000 -2016) and in addition to her piano duet venture with James Lisney, she now leads three chamber groups: Anton Stadler Trio (with clarinettist Janet Hilton and violist Robin Ireland), Clarion³ (with Janet Hilton and bassoonist Laurence Perkins), and a duo with Janet Hilton.

Multi-award winning pianist Sarah Beth Briggs earned multiple plaudits for her previous Avie recordings - a Gramophone Critics' Choice for her pairing of concertos by Hans Gal and Mozart, and a Gramophone Editor's Choice for her Briggs Piano Trio's pairing of works by Gal and Shostakovich.

For her first solo recital recording for Avie, Sarah turns to some of the greatest collections of Romantic miniatures, largely inspired by one woman: Clara Schumann, wife of Robert Schumann and muse to Johannes Brahms.

Ergo, here on Schumann: Papillons, Kinderszenen - Brahms: Opp. 117, 118 (released January 18th, 2019 via AVIE Records), the twelve short dance movements of Schumann's early and enigmatic Papillons set the scene, giving way to autumnal, late Brahms- his Op. 117 Intermezzi and Op. 118 Klavierstucke.

Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856)
1. Papillons, Op. 2 (17.04)

Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897)
Three Intermezzi, Op. 117 (16.47)
2. No.1 in E-Flat Major: Andante moderato (5.40)
3. No.2 in B-Flat Minor: Andante non troppo e con molto espressione (5.00)
4. No.3 in C-Sharp Minor: Andante con moto (6.07)
Six Klavierstücke, Op. 118 (24.45)
5. No.1 Intermezzo in A Minor: Allegro non assai, ma molto appassionato (1.33)
6. No.2 Intermezzo in A Major: Andante teneramente (6.09)
7. No.3 Ballade in G Minor: Allegro energico (3.36)
8. No.4 Intermezzo in F Minor: Allegretto un poco agitato (2.53)
9. No.5 Romanze in F Major: Andante (4.06)
10. No.6 Intermezzo in E-Flat Minor: Andante, largo e mesto (6.28)

Robert Schumann
Kinderszenen (“Scenes from Childhood”), Op. 15 (22.01)
11. Von fremden Ländern und Menschen (“Of Foreign Lands and Peoples”) (1.36)
12. Kuriose Geschichte (“A Curious Story”) (1.13)
13. Hasche-Mann (“Blind Man’s Bluff”) (0.33)
14. Bittendes Kind (“Pleading Child”) (1.17)
15. Glückes genug (“Happy Enough”) (1.30)
16. Wichtige Begebenheit (“An Important Event”) (0.54)
17. Träumerei (“Dreaming”) (2.55)
18. Am Kamin (“At the Fireside”) (0.53)
19. Ritter vom Steckenpferd (“Knight of the Hobbyhorse”) (0.39)
20. Fast zu ernst (“Almost Too Serious”) (2.16)
21. Fürchtenmachen (“Frightening”) (2.21)
22. Kind im Einschlummern (“Child Falling Asleep”) (2.38)
23. Der Dichter spricht (“The Poet Speaks”) (3.16)

Total Time: 80.54

The bookends of the album are Schumann's early and youthful Papillons and Kinderszenen. In between is autumnal Brahms - his Op. 117 Intermezzi and Op. 118 Klavierstücke.

Briggs' key work is as precise, as cultured, as crisp as I think I've ever heard her work to be. As delicate as it needs to be in certain moments (such as Brahms: 6 Klavierstücke, Op. 118 - No.2 Intermezzo in A Major: Andante teneramente) and as sternly, yet freely buoyant as one would hope (such as on Brahms: 6 Klavierstücke, Op. 118 - No.1 Intermezzo in A Minor: Allegro non assai, ma molto appassionato), from beginning to end the album proves its worth.

Indeed, and furthermore, the album ends as it begins, with youthful Schumann and his lovingly crafted Kinderszenen, written over half a century earlier. It's all so delightful. Just simply delightful.

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Title - 'Demoed in Detroit: 1997-98'
Artist - Sponge

For those not in the know, Sponge is an American alternative rock band from Detroit, Michigan formed in 1991 by Vinnie Dombroski, Mike Cross, Tim Cross, Jimmy Paluzzi, and Joey Mazzola.

Dombroski and the Cross brothers were founding members of the hard rock band Loudhouse, later joined by Mazzola at the end of the band's tenure.

Sponge was signed to Sony Records in 1994, but has since switched to other labels throughout their career.

Released on January 25th, 2019 via Cleopatra Records, Demoed in Detroit 1997-98 is a never-before-released set of studio recordings taped in Detroit following the band's blockbuster sophomore album Wax Ecstatic!

1. 'How Much Do You Think of Love'
2. 'Fell in Deep'
3. 'Falling for the Girls'
4. 'Great Big Flop'
5. 'Love's a Killer'
6. 'Once in a Blue Moon'
7. 'Laughing at Me'
8. 'Get Down and Assume the Position'
9. 'What Are Good Friends For'
10. 'Walk in My Shoes'
11. 'Turn Out the Lights'
12. 'Song for the End of the World'
13. 'Someone to Talk To'
14. 'Break on Through'
15. 'My Generation'
16. 'Born To Be Wild'
17. 'Plowed' (Acoustic Pilot Mix)
18. 'Molly (16 Candles Down the Drain)' (Mad Piano Mix)

Kicking off in fine style with the piercing punk sensibilities of 'How Much Do You Think of Love' and backing it up with the grunge of 'Fell in Deep,' the Nirvana-esque 'Falling for the Girls,' due to its indie-punk-alternative vibe, the album definitely isn't for all music fans.

The ballad 'Great Big Flop' is up next and is followed by the mid-tempo power pop duo of 'Love's a Killer' and then 'Once in a Blue Moon,' before they unleash the searing guitar work of 'Laughing at Me.'

'Get Down and Assume the Position' is seamlessly backed by the raw acoustic vibe of 'What Are Good Friends For,' with the forthright 'Walk in My Shoes' and then the quieter ballad 'Turn Out the Lights' along next.

The pop guitar jangles of 'Song for the End of the World' is a true, unadulterated highlight here and is followed by the finger-snappin' indie pop of 'Someone to Talk To' and then the first of their covers, The Doors' 'Break on Through.'

Whereas that previous cover showed restraint and a will to make it their own, Sponge dive in head first into their Who cover of 'My Generation' and nail it near note perfectly. Steppenwolf's 'Born To Be Wild' is another example of that.

Simply put, Sponge had a hit right out of the box with its debut album, Rotting Piñata, which was certified gold. The singles 'Plowed' and 'Molly (16 Candles Down The Drain)' were both Top 5 hits on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart, and the success sent the group criss-crossing North America and to Europe.

So, it's very appropriate that this Demoed album then rounds out with those two aforementioned Sponge favorites. The first being a rather beautiful, wistfully acoustic piano rendition of 'Plowed' (Acoustic Pilot Mix), with a near seven minute, and equally acoustically sensational 'Molly (16 Candles Down the Drain)' (Mad Piano Mix) bringing things to a close.

Inclusive of 13 original songs, 3 blistering cover tunes plus 2 incredible acoustic versions of the band's hits 'Plowed' and 'Molly (16 Candles Down The Drain,' Demoed is a fans delight.

Raw and powerful, this is an essential album for fans of Sponge and classic '90s alternative rock!

Official CD Purchase Link

Title - 'The King Of Endicott'
Artist - Gary Wilson

For those not in the know, Gary Wilson is an experimental musician/performance artist best known for his 1977 album You Think You Really Know Me; after which he promptly retired from recording and performing concerts!

That said, he slowly gained a strong cult following during the 1980s and 1990s, and in the early 2000s became active again.

And active is what he truly is once again for following hot on the footsteps of brilliant albums such as Alone With Gary Wilson (2015), It's Friday Night with Gary Wilson (2016), It's Christmas Time with Gary Wilson (2016), and Let's Go to Outer Space (2017), Cleopatra Records now brings us his brand new album, The King of Endicott (out now!)

Admittedly not containing as many of his known go-to's for musical wonderment ie: experimental sounds, avant garde grooves, and demented love songs, Endicott still manages to embrace all the alt-funk classic vibes that one would hope for.

1. 'The King of Endicott (Intro)'
2. 'The Town of a Thousand Lights'
3. 'The Lonely Park'
4. 'Walking in the Rain Tonight'
5. 'I Think I'm Falling in Love'
6. 'The King of Endicott'
7. 'I Don't Want to Be Alone'
8. 'Lugene Lived in Johnson City'
9. 'I Dream of My Secret Girl'
10. 'Midnight in Endicott'
11. 'A Perfect Day in Endicott'
12. 'Mary Walked Away'
13. 'Another Dimension'
14. 'It's Summer Time'
15. 'Hail to the King'

One thing you will quickly become aware of listening to this, and most all his other releases, is that Gary Wilson was always completely ahead of his time!

A familiar mix of Zappa, ? & the Mysterians, Barry White, Steely Dan, and one could even say '70s porn soundtracks, the mindscape of an alienated, small town adolescent with, perhaps, creepy borderline-stalker fantasies, nevertheless, Gary's music has always hit the mark for his fans worldwide.

Here on the self-proclaimed Legend of Weirdo's new bedroom rock album, Gary makes yet another triumphant return to music: this time whilst also embracing his very own hometown of Endicott, NY.

Kicking things off with the one minute intro 'The King of Endicott,' that's backed by the joyous bounce pop fun of 'The Town Of A Thousand Lights' (a cut that has instantly become one of my personal favorites).

Endicott, also the birthplace of otherworldly geniuses including Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling (hence the nod to the show in that last song) and the IBM corporation, features heavily in the album's lyrics, as you would well imagine.

Gary's funky psychedelic trip through his past continues onward with the hipsway of 'The Lonely Park,' the gentler ballad 'Walking In The Rain Tonight,' and then the upbeat 'I Think I'm Falling In Love.'

The title track is yet another wondrous track and together with 'I Don't Want To Be Alone,' for me, much like the entire album, in truth showcases the fact that Gary's work is becoming more accessible to a wider audience.

Minus all his wild and wacky space adventure twists and twirls, and with the whole psych approach pretty much played down, Endicott is actually one of his most listenable albums to date.

Well, having said that, of course we get all of that in the next track, the wild and wacky .45 second 'Lugene Lived in Johnson City'! Then we're back on track with the pop bounce of 'I Dream Of My Secret Girl,' which is followed brilliantly by both the finger-snappin' duo of 'Midnight In Endicott' and 'A Perfect Day in Endicott.'

The R&B organ vibe of 'Mary Walked Away' is yet another stand out cut and is backed by one last special synth trip in the form of the aptly-entitled 'Another Dimension.'

The album then rounds out with the sunny synth rays of 'It's Summer Time,' with the minute long 'Hail To The King' perfectly bringing this quite stunning nod to his beloved hometown to a close.

Official CD Purchase Link

Gary Wilson on Facebook

Title - 'The Complete Chicory Tip'
Artist - Chicory Tip

For those not in the know, Chicory Tip are an English pop group, formed in 1967 in Maidstone, Kent.

The band originally comprised vocalist Peter Hewson, guitarist Richard "Rick" Foster, bass guitarist Barry Mayger, drummer Brian Shearer, and guitarist and keyboard player Rod Cloutt (who sadly passed away in Australia in 2017).

In truth, Chicory Tip only released a few records in the US and their name was shortened to just Chicory for the US market. Indeed, for their first two releases there, that's how it stayed until they reverted back to the full name thereafter.

The Complete Chicory Tip is a quite brilliant new 30 track 2CD round up of everything ever released by '70s Glam Rock legends Chicory Tip.

Releasing March 29th, 2019 via 7T's Records / Cherry Red Records UK, it, of course, includes the International million selling smash 'Son Of My Father'.

Written by Giorgio Moroder, the song hit #1 in the UK and also topped the charts in Argentina, Belgium and Spain as well as making the Top 10 in charts across the globe.

CD 1:
1. 'Son of My Father'
2. 'Arizona
3. 'Sweat Dust and Red Wine'
4. 'Marianne'
5. 'Pride Comes Before a Fall'
6. 'Excuse Me Baby'
7. 'Friend of Mine'
8. 'Lodi'
9. 'What She Thinks About'
10. 'I Couldn't Spend Another Day Without You'
11. 'Memory'
12. 'I Can Hear You Calling'
13. 'What's Your Name'
14. 'Monday After Sunday'
15. 'My Girl Sunday'
16. 'Doctor Man'

The first CD opens with the foot-tappin' '70s flashback, chart-toppin,' Moog synthesizer beauty 'Son Of My Father' (recorded at George Martin's Air Studios) and then backs that up wonderfully with the storytelling of the album track 'Arizona' (written by Kenny Young who went on to have hits in the bands Fox and Yellow Dog), the singalong 'Sweat Dust and Red Wine,' and both the brass-enhanced love song 'Marianne' (complete with Brandy in their tea!) and bight and breezy flow of 'Pride Comes Before a Fall' (the B-side of the band's first ever single, 'Monday After Sunday').

The ukulele-inspired 'Excuse Me Baby' (a remake of a minor UK hit for The Magic Lanterns in 1971 and which also secured the band its first appearance on the BBC TV pop music countdown show, Top of the Pops) is as much a delight to hear today as I'm sure it was back then and that's backed by both the up-down bounce cover of the Dr. Marigold hit 'Friend of Mine' and the guitar-tastic troubadour-recounting cover of John Fogerty's 'Lodi.'

'What She Thinks About' is a slight trip into psych, with the lush 'I Couldn't Spend Another Day Without You,' 'Memory' (the B-side of the upcoming 'What's Your Name'), their cover of a Three Dog Night track, 'I Can Hear You Calling,' and then the aforementioned follow up single to 'Son Of My Father,' 'What's You Name.'

The first disc rounds out with the bands very first single (released on 19th June 1970), 'Monday After Sunday,' with their second single (released on 2nd April 1971), 'My Girl Sunday' and it's B-side, 'Doctor Man' wrapping the first disc up nicely.

CD 2:
1. 'The Devil Rides Tonight'
2. 'I Love Onions'
3. 'Don't Hang Jack'
4. 'The Future Is Past'
5. 'Big Wheels Rolling'
6. 'Good Grief Christina'
7. 'Move on'
8. 'Cigarettes, Women and Wine'
9. 'I See You'
10. 'I.O.U.'
11. 'Join Our Gang'
12. 'Take Your Time Caroline'
13. 'Me and Stan Foley'
14. 'Survivor'

The second CD begins with the guitar-heavy 'The Devil Rides Tonight' (the B-side of 'Excuse Me Baby') and then brings forth the joyous, fun gravelly-vocalized fourth single, 'I Love Onions.'

It's B-side, the jangling guitar cut 'Don't Hang Jack' is next and is followed by the follow-up to 'What's Your Name,' the trademark Moog synthesizer-less 'The Future Is Past.'

Next up is the B-side to that song, 'Big Wheels Rolling' which is followed by the bands third and final hit, 'Good Grief Christina.' Yet another catchy pop cut, it's a genuine shame (to me) they didn't stick to this musical formula as their careers might have been much more successful re: chart hits and such.

Moving on, which is very apt, as the next track is the B-side to that aforementioned last song, the great blues vibe of entitled 'Move On.' Next up is the follow up to 'Good Grief Christina,' the funky guitar work of 'Cigarettes, Women and Wine,' and that's followed by its B-side, the steel guitar and cowbell funky delight 'I See You.'

Co-written by Pete Bellotte (who wrote the lyrics) and Giorgio Moroder (who wrote the music), 'I.O.U.' is next. A deliciously funky track it failed to chart. Next comes the swirling psych of 'Join Our Gang' and then the guys used the hit songwriting team of Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley (aka The Tremeloes) for 'Take Your Time Caroline' - but, sadly, it too failed.

The lead guitar and piano beauty 'Me and Stan Foley' is then followed by their very last-released single, this time on Roger Easterby's Route label. Called 'Survivor' it was written by Zack Lawrence and J Weston and as much as it wasn't a hit either, it still proved to their fans they were a valid musical entity capable of change.

The booklet contains a detailed history of the band by official web master Stuart Cameron who has interviewed guitarist Rick Foster especially for this release.

It also features rare picture sleeves from around the globe to allow collectors to update their "Wants" Lists!

2CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Origin Of Species' [2CD]
Artist - DarWin

If your musical cup o' tea is a near-future experience of existence, of a world that might well be as close to reality as any one has ever imagined before, well, welcome to the world of DarWin.

An intricate musical fantasy concept, Origin Of Species (now available internationally on all major digital distribution platforms, with an epic cinematic video of "Escape the Maze" available on YouTube, Facebook and iTunes) is now ready for public consumption.

Origin Of Species features legendary drummer and producer Simon Phillips, who, in addition to playing drums, percussion and keyboards, also engineered, mixed and drove the production on the album.

Veteran bass player and singer Matt Bissonette performed a rich array of lead and background vocals and bass and DarWin himself drove the songwriting and conceptual vision while playing various guitars.

CD 1:
1. 'For Humanity' (4:08)
2. 'The Last Chance' (5:38)
3. 'Taking Chances' (4:42)
4. 'Escape The Maze' (7:24)
5. 'Walk Away From Earth' (4:44)
6. 'Gummy Bear' (5:12)
7. 'Forever' (5:44)

CD 2:
1. 'War Against My Mind' (4:42)
2. 'Artificial' (4:45)
3. 'One Horizon' (5:11)
4. 'Modern Insanity' (5:24)
5. 'Cosmic Rays' (4:50)
6. 'Life Is A Mystery' (4:12)
7. 'Slowly Melting' (3:52)
8. 'Rise' (4:53)
9. 'Just One More Day' (3;22)
10. 'Prologue / For Humanity' (5:28)

On this quite wondrous 2CD release, the music ebbs and flows freely, encouraging the listener to drop whatever it is they are doing and give over their minds to what is quite easily a stunning concept album for the ages.

With the world we live in today beginning to heavily influence and redesign the world of tomorrow, Origin Of Species uses heavy riffs and deep bass grooves, all alluring segued into incredible Prog ensembles to forecast what they interpret to be our future world.

With DarWin having approached drum maestro Phillips some 4 years ago now with the idea of having the great musician simply produce his record, once emails had been swapped back and forth, it was obvious for communications that Phillips should have more of a hands on experience with the album.

And that shows as most all the tracks are drum-led and together with the searing guitar solos and overall Prog rock vibe, tracks such as the massive opener 'For Humanity,' 'Walk Away From Earth', 'The Last Chance' and both 'Artificial 'Life Is A Mystery,' ooze their emotionally power track after track after track.

The album also features guest performances from the likes of: Jeff Babko (keyboards and quartet arrangements), Greg Howe (blazing lead guitar solos), Dennis Hamm (keyboards), Ernst Tibbs (bass), Katisse Buckingham (Flute, Soprano Sax), Samuel Sim and Peter Nickalls (orchestral and quartet arrangements), The Origin of Species Quartet (Los Angeles), The Reykjavik String Quartet (Iceland), and The Chamber Orchestra Of London (Conductor Matt Dunkley).

Official UK CD Purchase Link

Title - 'The Albums 1991-1997' [4CD]
Artist - Stiff Little Fingers

For those not in the know, Stiff Little Fingers are a punk rock band from Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Formed in 1977, at the height of "the troubles", they started out as a schoolboy band called Highway Star (named after the Deep Purple song), doing rock covers, until they discovered punk.

They split up after six years and four albums, although they reformed five years later, in 1987, but despite major personnel changes they are still touring and recording today.

In 2014 the band released their tenth studio album and a world tour followed its release.

Jake Burns, their lead singer, is the only member to have been with the band during all its incarnations, but in March 2006, original bass guitarist Ali McMordie rejoined them following the departure of The Jam bass player Bruce Foxton after fifteen years.

I've been a fan of SLF since I was introduced to them, via a vinyl album in a house that I was taking refuge within from my parents! Hiding out that afternoon, the teenage lad put on the album that contained both 'Alternative Ulster' and 'Tin Soldiers' and my brain just exploded with the new raw sound!

Luckily for me, and all fans of SLF, Captain Oi! and Cherry Red Records have just released a wonderous 4CD clamshell box that covers the albums issued by these punk legends released between 1991 and 1997.

Disc One - Flags & Emblems

1. '(It's a) Long Way to Paradise (From Here)'
2. 'Stand Up and Shout'
3. 'Each Dollar a Bullet'
4. 'The 'Cosh'
5. 'Beirut Moon'
6. 'The Game of Life'
7. 'Human Shield'
8. 'Johnny 7'
9. 'Die and Burn'
10. 'No Surrender'
11. 'The 'Cosh' (Remix) - Bonus Track
12. '(It's a) Long Way to Paradise (From Here)' (Demo) - Bonus Track
13. 'Stand Up and Shout' (Demo) - Bonus Track

Entitled, of course, The Albums 1991-1997, Disc One is the band's comeback studio album, Flags & Emblems. It was the first to feature ex-Jam bassist Bruce Foxton and includes the single 'Beirut Moon'.

The album represents a kinda midway resting point of an era for the band, to my mind. I actually love it, but it's not the old school vibe of the band that first got me hooked, that's for sure.

That said, it contains a fair few great tracks that are, in my humble opinion, among the best put out by SLF in any era. Add to that this new version also now contains three "bonus" tracks and, well, it's as complete a recording now as it ever was.

Disc Two - Pure Fingers Live (St. Patrix 1993)
1. 'Go for It'
2. 'Nobody's Hero'
3. 'At the Edge'
4. 'No Surrender'
5. 'Love of the Common People'
6. 'What If I Want More'
7. 'Fly the Flag'
8. 'Piccadilly Circus'
9. 'Wasted Life'
10. 'When the Stars Fall from the Sky'
11. 'Road to Kingdom Come'
12. 'Stand Up and Shout'
13. 'Smithers Jones'
14. 'Barbed Wire Love'
15. '(It's a) Long Way to Paradise'
16. 'Gotta Gettaway'
17. 'Suspect Device'
18. 'Walk Tall'
19. 'Tin Soldiers'
20. 'Alternative Ulster'
21. 'Johnny Was' - Bonus Track

The band's yearly St. Patrick's Day show at Glasgow's Barrowlands is always sold out and Disc Two features one of the first they ever did.

Furthermore, Pure Fingers Live (St. Patrix 1993) is also the last release to feature original guitarist Henry Cluney.

A veritable greatest hits compilation of 21 songs - the "bonus" one being the last track, 'Johnny Was', the set list contains a mixture of old favorites from the original incarnation of the band along with newer tracks from when the band reformed.

Disc Three - Get A Life
1. 'Get a Life'
2. 'Can't Believe in You'
3. 'The Road to Kingdom Come'
4. 'Walk Away'
5. 'No Laughing Matter'
6. 'Harp'
7. 'Forensic Evidence'
8. 'Baby Blue (What Have They Been Telling You?)'
9. 'I Want You'
10. 'The Night That the Wall Came Down'
11. 'Cold'
12. 'When the Stars Fall from the Sky'
13. 'What If I Want More?'
14. 'Silver Lining (Unplugged)'
15. 'Listen (Unplugged)'
16. 'Wasted Life (Unplugged)'

1994's Get A Life album is Disc Three and saw the band down to a trio of Jake Burns, Bruce Foxton and Dolphin Taylor.

Including the singles 'Harp' and 'Can't Believe In You' the songs are very varied, ranging from the grunge influenced to melodical ballads like 'I Want You'.

The title song 'Get a Life' includes one of their best Gaelic-rock guitar riffs that I've heard in a long time (or since), but fans brought up on Inflammable Material will find it hard to accept, given the overall tone of the album.

That said, Get A Life does actually contain some of their very best political songs: 'Harp', 'Baby Blue' and 'When the Stars Fall from the Sky', being just three of them.

It also now contains three "bonus" tracks and as much as I've heard the other ones listened on here for the albums noted above, these unplugged ones are new to me (and therefore maybe to you also).

Disc Four - Tinderbox

1. 'You Never Hear the One That Hits You'
2. '(I Could Be) Happy Yesterday'
3. 'Tinderbox'
4. 'Dead of Night'
5. 'The Message'
6. 'My Ever Changing Moral Stance'
7. 'Hurricane'
8. 'You Can Move Mountains'
9. 'A River Flowing'
10. 'You Don't Believe in Me'
11. 'In Your Hand'
12. 'Dust in My Eye'
13. 'No Barriers'
14. 'Roaring Boys (Parts 1 & 2)'

The final disc is 1997's Tinderbox album, now restored to it's original sleeve.

Ok, being totally honest here, SLF were always more comfortable writing political lyrics rather than relationship songs and this album is, weirdly, made up nearly entirely of the latter!

Not their best work for me for even the songs that show potential are undermined by Burns' inability to actually write "genuine" love songs.

The second part of 'Roaring Boys' is interesting within its punk uproar version complete with more Gaelic music, but unfortunately the song falls apart based on the overall weakness of the verses.

Indeed, the lyrics on this album are clichéd and, overall, the music is rather bland - which, as I'm sure you are all more than aware by now, just wasn't/isn't something you expect(ed) from SLF.

Vocalist Jake Burns has provided liner notes covering this period in the band's career whilst the booklet contains rare clippings and memorabilia as well as pictures of all relevant releases.

4CD Box-Set Purchase Link

Title - 'A Song For All Seasons: Expanded Edition' [3CD]
Artist - Renaissance

For those not in the know, Renaissance are an English progressive rock band, best known for their 1978 UK top 10 hit 'Northern Lights' and progressive rock classics like 'Carpet of the Sun', 'Mother Russia', and 'Ashes Are Burning'.

They developed a unique sound, combining a female lead vocal with a fusion of classical, folk, rock, and jazz influences.

Characteristic elements of the Renaissance sound are Annie Haslam's wide vocal range, prominent piano accompaniment, orchestral arrangements, vocal harmonies, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, synthesiser, and versatile drum work.

The band created a significant following in the northeast United States in the 1970s, and that region remains their strongest fan base.

The original line-up included two former members of The Yardbirds, Keith Relf and Jim McCarty, along with John Hawken, Louis Cennamo and Relf's sister Jane Relf.

They intended to put "something together with more of a classical influence" and so Renaissance was born; and the band released a studio album in 1969, and another in 1971.

Subsequently, John Tout replaced Hawken on keyboards, followed by a period of high turnover of musicians until the "classic line-up" of Haslam, John Tout, Michael Dunford, Jon Camp, and Terry Sullivan was established; although none of them were in the original band.

They were assisted with lyrics on many songs from Cornish poet Betty Thatcher-Newsinger.

From 1972 to 1979 Renaissance released seven successful studio albums, toured extensively, and sold out three nights in a row at Carnegie Hall with Tony Cox conducting the New York Philharmonic.

The 1980s were a lean time for them, with personnel changes, and two relatively unsuccessful studio albums, leading to disbandment in 1987.

Two different offshoots of Renaissance existed at the same time at one stage in the mid-1990s. The band re-formed in 1998 to record Tuscany, which was eventually released in 2001; however, they disbanded again the next year.

2009 heralded a new line-up for Renaissance, led by Haslam and Dunford, and since then the band has continued to record and tour.

They were shocked and saddened by the sudden death of Dunford in November 2012, but later Haslam stated that the band would continue touring.

The current line-up is not as English as the band's early period, with five U.S.-born members and one English-born member who lives in the United States and in April 2014, Renaissance released the studio album Symphony of Light.

Esoteric Recordings will this-April release an incredible newly remastered and expanded 3CD clamshell box edition of their classic album, A Song for All Seasons.

Disc 1 - A Song For All Seasons (Remastered)
1. 'Opening Out'
2. 'Day of the Dreamer'
3. 'Closer Than Yesterday'
4. 'Kindness (At the End)'
5. 'Back Home Once Again'
6. 'She Is Love'
7. 'Northern Lights'
8. 'A Song for All Seasons'
9. 'Northern Lights' (Promotional Single Edit) (Previously Unreleased on CD)
10. 'Day of the Dreamer' (BBC Radio One Session 1978)
11. 'Midas Man' BBC Radio One Session 1978)
12. 'The Vultures Fly High' (BBC Radio One Session 1978)
13. 'Northern Lights' ("Top of the Pops" Version) (Previously Unreleased)

Disc 2 - Live at The Tower Theater, Philadelphia 1978)
1. 'Can You Understand'
2. 'Carpet of the Sun'
3. 'Things I Don't Understand'
4. 'Opening Out' (Previously Unreleased)
5. 'Day of the Dreamer'
6. 'Midas Man'

Disc 3 - Live at The Tower Theater, Philadelphia 1978
1. 'Northern Lights'
2. 'A Song for All Seasons' (Previously Unreleased)
3. 'Touching Once Is So Hard to Keep' (Previously Unreleased)
4. 'Ashes Are Burning' (Previously Unreleased)

Released in March 1978, the album featured the song 'Northern Lights', a Top Ten hit single in the UK and Europe, and was a successful hit album in the UK, USA and Canada.

Working with producer David Hentschel (who had also produced the albums A Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wuthering for Genesis), the material on A Song for All Seasons was some of the most carefully crafted work of the band's career.

Flying in the face of the prevailing musical fashions of the time, A Song for All Seasons would be the band's most successful album in Europe and is one of their best-loved works.

While many purists consider Scheherazade and Other Stories to be their penultimate magnum opus, and it is a classical-rock progressive dreamers landscape certainly, to my mind their Novella simply works better on a scale of Annie’s voice and Dunford-Tout-Camp-Sullivan surrealism.

That said, in 1978, 14 months later, Renaissance decided to bring the electric guitar back into the fold as well as some very lush orchestral production.

Thus, A Song for All Seasons works both better than some previous efforts, and, in some spots, drops some of their weakest material across 8 studio albums (6 with this version of the band).

Annie and John continue to enjoy that legendary lead trade-off role with beautiful melodies and the backing by Rabinowitz and orchestra are equally gorgeous. 'Northern Lights', the title track, 'Back Home Once Again', and 'Closer Than Yesterday' are Renaissance in top form.

The aptly-named album opener 'Opening Out' and 'The Day Of The Dreamer' are initially quite promising, but they never quite reach what one expects from Renaissance classics; especially in the 9 minute 'Dreamer' which has lots of room to maneuver.

As we all know, 'Northern Lights' was actually the only Top 10 (UK) hit single for the group and is also one of the best tracks on the album. Drawing from the same well as 'Carpet of the Sun' and other folk-classical fusions.

'Closer Than Yesterday' also springs from this melodic sound with beautiful acoustic guitar work. That said, if you still feel as though the album is less “centered” than any of their previous efforts you are not alone. However, the cornerstone of A Song For All Seasons is the 11 minute title track which can be said to revisit the framework of the epic Scheherazade suite.

This superb Expanded 3CD Edition has been newly remastered from the original master tapes and features 16 bonus tracks. Inclusive of the previously-unreleased Promotional Edit and a "Top of the Pops" recording of 'Northern Lights', it also brings forth some BBC Radio One Session recordings from August 1978.

Add to that the second and third discs comprising the entire concert recorded at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia on December 4th, 1978 - which is appearing in full on CD for the first time - this additional 55 minute's worth of unreleased tracks ensures that A Song For All Seasons: Expanded Edition is a gem of a release for all their fans.

The release also features an illustrated booklet with a reproduction of the band's 1978 US tour programme and new essay. The set also includes a reproduction of the original album poster given away with the initial pressing of A Song For All Seasons.

3CD Box-Set Purchase Link

Title - 'Wisdom Teeth' [EP]
Artist - Jealous of the Birds

Listening to the just-released Wisdom Teeth EP from Northern Ireland's Naomi Hamilton aka Jealous of the Birds it's easy to understand why many have started to term her music as truly expressive art.

Incorporating genres of music that range from the mid-'90s indie scene to the more quietly bombastic elements found within unyielding hours of basement dedication to the art form, it's no surprise to learn that Hamilton studied English and creative writing at Queens University, Belfast.

Her love for the English language, for the way words can craft emotions and cause great affect within us all is a joy to behold here on this new EP.

The first track is the free flowing storytelling of 'Marrow' which is backed the beautiful, atmospheric city reveal of 'New York Has A Lump In Her Throat.'

Incorporating spoken word, of which it might take several listens to really cotton fully on to the full gist of Hamilton's fast-paced thoughts, the song is alive from the very start.

The lush ballad 'Kosiskelu' is yet another prime example of just how good, how lyrically superb Hamilton truly is and that's backed by the completely out-of-nowhere early-'90s alternative, slap bass, Breeders-esque pop blast of 'Blue Eyes.'

The EP rounds out with the silky smooth ballad 'Clemintina,' a cut that simply oozes out of the speakers and slowly, but surely creeps so unnoticeably under your skin that you will still be humming it come the end of the day.

Amazon CD Purchase Link

Jealous of the Birds @ Facebook!

Title - 'Paper Castles'
Artist - Alice Phoebe Lou

Alice Phoebe Lou's fiercely independent approach to her art has given her creative confidence that shines through in her jazzy and ethereal indie songs, filled with captivating vocals and stripped back music.

Born in South Africa she developed her eclectic and distinctive sound busking on the streets of Berlin and finally caught the ears of a community of music lovers the world over.

She's earned praise from NPR, Rolling Stone, Blackbook and more, and has been previously nominated for Best Female Artist at the German Critics Choice Awards.

Indeed, back in 2017, a live version of the song, 'She,' was released and racked up five million plays on YouTube and was featured in the film 'Bombshell: The Heady Lamarr Story' (all before the studio version of the single was even released).

The just-released Paper Castles is Alice's second full-length release, following 2016's Orbit although she has also independently released two EPs, Momentum and Sola, as well as several singles.

1. 'Little Spark'
2. 'Nostalgia'
3. 'Galaxies'
4. 'Paper Castles'
5. 'Fynbos'
6. 'Something Holy'
7. 'Skin Crawl'
8. 'My Outside'
9. 'New Song'
10. 'Ocean'

Produced by Noah Georgeson, Alice herself has explained that Paper Castles is about "... nostalgia, about growing into a woman, about the pain and beauty of the past, about feeling small and insignificant, but finding that to be powerful and beautiful, about acknowledging that childhood is over but bringing some of it with you."

Knowing that going in and the first track, 'Little Spark' seemingly encapsulates all those sentiments perfectly. Hauntingly ethereal, and yet personally vibrant, the song bleeds seamlessly into both 'Nostalgia' and one of my own personal favorites, the free flowing 'Galaxies.'

The title track, 'Paper Castles' turns the beat up somewhat whilst 'Fynbos' uses Alice's bare vocal energy alongside that of acoustic guitar just perfectly.

'Something Holy' is then followed by the early-'90s alternative, Mazzy Star-esque 'Skin Crawl,' with the fun and breezy 'My Outside' along next.

The album then rounds out with the quietly pensive hipsway strains of 'New Song' and then comes to a close with the delicate love song ode, 'Ocean'

Amazon CD Purchase Link

Title - 'For Kenny' [2CD]
Artist - LYL (Locate Your Lips)

For those not in the know, much like myself, LYL (Locate Your Lips) were a punk/power-pop band in Milwaukee in the mid-'80s.

Built around the jazz-schooled yet rock ready drumming of Kenny Baldwin (who passed away from cancer in 2015, hence the new title of the album), the empathetic accompaniment of bassist Andy Cavaluzzi and fiery guitar playing by (ex-Shivvers guitarist) Jim Eannelli, LYL emerged from the city's punk rock scene.

With the energy of punk and the sophistication of jazz and progressive rock LYL broke ground and left audiences unable to pigeonhole them.

Furthermore, LYL also recorded an album in 1985, but sadly never released it.

Releasing next month, For Kenny now sees the light of day via a wondrous 2CD set. For Jim Eannelli himself has now produced an official release of the album which also includes some vibrant live tracks too.

Inclusive of a second disc of tracks recorded live for a radio broadcast along with some bonus tracks taken from their live performance at The Boardwalk Club, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Happy Growl Records will release the 2CD set on April 5th, 2019.

Culled together by working with tapes left from a live broadcast on WQFM and a previously unreleased album-length studio recording, it's that live show that kicks things off on the first disc.

Disc One - Recorded Live
1. 'WQFM DJ Introduction'
2. 'Stethoscope'
3. 'Alive'
4. 'It Seems Like'
5. 'Get Away'
6. 'I Can Take It'
7. 'No Reason'
8. 'I Can't Take Another Taste of This'
9. 'Got A Lot of Nice Things'
10. 'No Refuge'
11. 'This World'
12. 'Waiting For You To Run'
13. 'Dance Or Die'
14. 'Cosmopolite'

After the squeaky high .13 second intro from the resident WQFM DJ has set the scene, LYL take the stage and immediately launch into two fabulous tracks that sum their musical leaning up perfectly: the pounding early punk vibe (complete with trashing drums) of 'Stethoscope' and the pulsating 'Alive.'

The drum-led, mid-tempo roll of 'It Seems Like' is yet another stand out cut and that's backed seamlessly by the melodic power punk trio of 'Get Away,' 'I Can Take It,' and 'No Reason.'

The frenetic, early Jam-esque beauty 'I Can't Take Another Taste of This' is backed by both 'Got A Lot of Nice Things' and the yearning of 'No Refuge,' with the fabulous guitar work of 'This World' up next.

The first disc then rounds out with 'Waiting For You To Run,' the short but sweet power pop of 'Dance Or Die,' and then the all-encompassing sounds of 'Cosmopolite.'

Disc Two - In Studio
1. 'Got A Lot of Time'
2. 'Cosmopolite'
3. 'De Lon Jon'
4. 'I Can't Take Another Taste of This'
5. 'Take Off Your Clothes'
6. 'Indecision'
7. 'It's A Beautiful Day'
8. 'I Don't'
9. 'Alive'
10. 'If You Could Have Anything'
11. 'Staring Slowly' (Live Bonus Track)
12. 'This Conversation' (Live Bonus Track)
13. 'You Got No Taste' (Live Bonus Track)

The brilliant 'Got A Lot of Time' (my favorite cut on this second disc) is backed by 'Cosmopolite' and the clap-along late-'60s vibe of 'De Lon Jon.'

'I Can't Take Another Taste of This' is followed by the late night underground jazz scene vibe of 'Take Off Your Clothes,' with the perfect musical pairing of both 'Indecision' and 'It's A Beautiful Day' along next.

The searing 'I Don't' is followed by the pop breeze of 'Alive' which in turn is backed by the early-'60s emotion of 'If You Could Have Anything.'

Added as live bonus tracks on this second disc, all be they somewhat flat recordings, we first get the stand straight and bounce of 'Staring Slowly,' which is backed by the drum-led 'This Conversation,' before the disc rounds out with the two minute power surge of 'You Got No Taste.'

Amazon Digital Purchase Link

Title - 'Carmanology'
Artist - The Allen Carman Project

Thanks to the clever title of the debut album by rapidly-burgeoning urban-contemporary jazz supergroup The Allen Carman Project, we now have a phrase that perfectly captures a unique and inspiring phenomenon.

Carmanology is what happens when a lifelong musician – in this case, bassist Allen Carman – hooks up with masters of his chosen genre, rekindles his long set-aside dreams and creates an extraordinary recording chock-full of innovative sounds, infectious melodies, explosive grooves and irresistible radio hits.

More than the realization of the vision of a single artist, The Allen Carman Project is a fresh collective featuring a host of contemporary jazz greats, each contributing a distinct musical perspective.

With a rhythmic and melodic foundation laid by Carman, Grammy-nominated keyboardist Philippe Saisse, percussionist Gumbi Ortiz and drummer Luis Alicea (all celebrated veterans of fusion legend Al Di Meola’s band), Carmanology fast becomes an expansive playground for fun.

Inclusive of freewheeling creative contributions by saxophonist Andy Snitzer, violinist Evan Garr (also from the Di Meola fold), guitarist Marc Antoine, trumpeter Rick Braun and Grammy-winning guitar legend Nile Rodgers, this debut album (out April 5th, 2019) is truly as good as it gets within their chosen musical genre.

1. 'Groove Salad'
2. 'Hearsay'
3. 'Carisma'
4. 'State of Mine'
5. 'Morning After'
6. 'Carmanology'
7. 'El Fanfaron'
8. 'Bodega'
9. 'River'

A recording project that to date has placed three singles on the Billboard chart, the album opens with the free flowing, summery warm breeze of 'Groove Salad' and backs that seamlessly with both the mood-setting keyboard and slap bass guitar funk of 'Hearsay' and the Latin-jazz flow of 'Carisma'

Next Grammy-winning guitar legend Nile Rodgers ignites 'State of Mine,' the explosive new single from the album and that's followed by the purposely-muted, yet stand alone freefall lead trumpet from Rick Braun on 'Morning After.'

It's a track that comes more alive as it rolls out and, for my money, is the best cut on the album. Add to that some wondrous and precisely contoured saxophone the track is the perfect midway point for the album.

Next up is the funky groove of the title track, 'Carmanology' which in turn is backed by a rather expansive soundscape venture entitled 'El Fanfaron.' Featuring the expertly produced horns of Don Harris and Bill Harris, that then gives way to the soaring majesty of 'Bodega.'

That track, inclusive of Evan Garr's scintillating electric violin one-man-show, is yet another reason why this debut is as highly regarded within the business as it clearly is.

The album then rounds out with the effervescently intriguing 'River,' but if you are anything like me, you'll hit Play and relive this magnificent album all over again.

The Allen Carman Project @ Facebook!

Title - 'Universal Light'
Artist - Highest Intention

For those not in the know, much like myself, Highest Intention is a vintage Roots Reggae Revival band that hails from the San Francisco Bay Area.

Their sound is locally grounded and globally appealing, bringing to mind artists like Sublime, 311, and even Bob Marley.

Formed in 2012 by guitar player and singer Ben "Down" Lowe, Highest Intetnion has performed alongside countless Reggae greats and established themselves as a local favorite; conveying a message of love and unity with a clean and fundamentally modern Roots Reggae sound.

Their highly anticipated debut album Universal Light has just been released this past March 22nd, 2019 worldwide to stores and can also now be found online.

This stunning debut is a solid release that honors the tradition of Jamaican Roots music while also forging it's own brand of progressive Reggae for the new millennium.

1. 'Morning Light' (FT. Karim Israel)
2. 'Fat One'
3. 'Ocean'
4. 'Vibes'
5. 'Riverside'
6. 'Dive in' (FT. Lindsay Stubblefield)
7. 'Escape'
8. 'Sky'
9. 'Bingi'
10. 'Universal Light'
11. 'Hold Your Own Love'
12. 'Reggae Paradise'
13. 'Time So Slow'

The album, which combines unique and thoughtful songwriting with heavy one drop beats, deep intoxicating bass lines, live horns, and vintage dub style effects featuring sound man Aaron Dahl (M.I.A., Wiz Khalifa), is a collection of 13 tracks that fairly strive to ensure that the best they can be is laid bare for the world to acknowledge.

Indeed, Lowe himself says, "The idea behind Highest Intention is to make music that can heal people and make them feel better, and that's the highest intention for music I can think of. Our music aims to be clean, natural, fluid and graceful."

Featuring guest producer Ces-One (J-Boog) and guest musicians Raleigh Neal (Michael Franti), Paul Wolstencroft (Slightly Stoopid), Toho Saunders (President Brown), and many more, the album kicks off with one of my own favorites, 'Morning Light.'

With lead vocals from Karim Israel (Arise Roots), it's his lyrics combined with the precise, melodic and free flowing piano work from KBong (Stick Figure) that make the track as engrossing as it is.

Indeed, and furthermore, each and every track on Universal Light come together to provide the listener with not only the most purest of traditional Reggae, but a wickedly coherent social statement also.

Amazon CD Purchase Link

Highest Intention @ Facebook!

Title - 'Mia et le Lion Blanc' (Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Artist - Armand Amar

Decca Records will release the official soundtrack album for the French family adventure 'Mia et te Lion Blanc' ('Mia and the White Lion') on March 15th, 2019.

The album features the film’s original music composed by Armand Amar ('The Concert,' 'A Bag of Marbles,' 'Belle & Sebastian,' '1,000 Times Good Night,' 'The Source,' et al) and in a wonderful move, it also includes a Kids United version of the song, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".

1. "Moving to South Africa"
2. "The Legend of the White Lion"
3. "A Miracle for Christmas"
4. "Mia’s Song" (featuring Gunnar Ellwanger)
5. "The Legend of the White Lion II"
6. "Playing with Charlie"
7. "Discovering the Wild Life" (featuring Insingizi)
8. "Charlie Misses Mia"
9. "The Legend of the White Lion III"
10. "Mia And Charlie" (featuring Insingizi)
11. "Searching for Charlie"
12. "Mick Is Wounded"
13. "We’re Gonna Sell Charlie"
14. "Lion’s Slaughtering" (featuring Insingizi)
15. "Runaway I"
16. "The Trap"
17. "Runaway II"
18. "Dirk the Poacher"
19. "A Lion in the Mall"
20. "Charlie’s Freedom" (featuring Isabel Sörling)
21. "Hunted"
22. "The Sanctuary" (featuring Insingizi)
23. "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (featuring Kids United)

From the freeflowing, soaringly breezy opening of "Moving to South Africa," to the more stern, wondrously curious "The Legend of the White Lion," to the pensively hopeful "A Miracle for Christmas," to the beautifully sung "Mia’s Song" (by Gunnar Ellwanger), everything about this beautiful, stirring soundtrack makes it my clear favorite released in the past decade.

A lovely inclusion on this album is the work of Insingizi for their music is filled with hope, optimism and faith. Included here are four tracks that all feature such stirring compositions, the stand out for me being "Lion’s Slaughtering" (the longest track at over four minutes).

On "Charlie’s Freedom," the Swedish voice improviser, composer and musician, Isabel Sörling takes the lead and the way she navigates through the track brings forth its emotive weariness just perfectly.

'Mia and the White Lion' is directed by Gilles de Maistre and stars Daniah De Villiers, Mélanie Laurent, Langley Kirkwood and Ryan Mac Lennan.

The movie follows a young girl from London moves to Africa with her parents where she befriends a lion cub.

Amazon Purchase Link

Title - 'In The Shadow of the Sun'
Artist - Joey Stuckey Trio

For those not in the know, Joey Stuckey is an award-winning blind guitarist, songwriter, singer, composer, producer, radio and television personality, music columnist, educator and sound engineer.

He is also the official music ambassador for his home town of Macon Georgia.

Joey's guitar style is reminiscent of rocker Jeff Beck and jazzer Wes Montgomery, while his vocal influences range from Mel Torme to Gregg Allman.

Despite his physical limitations, Joey has flourished in every aspect of his life.

He has released several albums, including Take A Walk In The Shadows (1995), Ironies, Pain And The Light That Guides (1999), Live And Stuff, (2000), Live And More Stuff, (2001), So Far, (2003), Oceanside, (2009), The Shadow Sound, (2011), Mixture (2012) and The Acoustic Sessions, Volume I (2014).

Joey has also experienced national success with the launch of 'Mixture,' which reached #9 on the CMJ Top 40 Jazz Charts for North America.

Joey's newest album In The Shadow of the Sun (out March 29th, 2019 via Senate Records, Inc.) is available for pre-order on both iTunes and Amazon Music, with the CD and VINYL versions of the album also including three (3) cover songs that are not available on the digital download versions!

1. 'You're So Wrong' (Album Version)
2. 'Domino'
3. 'Ain't It Good To Be In Love'
4. 'Good Time Charlie'
5. 'Trouble Comes In Threes'
6. 'Still Me, Sane & Free'
7. 'Truth Is A Misty Mountain'
8. 'Whippin' Post'
9. 'You're So Wrong' (Radio Edit)

As the gentle reverb sounds out before quickly heading into the jangly blues rock guitar work that Joey is renowned for, 'You're So Wrong' (Album Version) resonates as the most perfect reveal for what to expect from the new nine track musical wonderment.

The high flying, roaringly euphoric vibe of 'Ain’t It Good to Be in Love' featuring Al Chez, Howard Middle School Concert Choir & Darrel Hendricks just makes you want to play it in the car, top down on a hot summers day, whilst the downright, forthright, dirty gravel vocals of 'Troubles Come in Threes' (featuring singer-songwriter Randall Bramblett) continues to take you Down South for a hot and sweaty adventure.

The loud and proud battle cry of 'Still Me, Sane & Free' is a brilliant mid-tempo sing-along whilst one of the other stand out cuts for me personally is the husky toned 'Truth Is a Misty Mountain' (featuring keyboardist Tom Rule).

With the CD also adding all the songs again, this time as "mixes in magnificent mono," this now-18 track album is a keeper for anyone who admires and appreciates the Blues done right in todays modern age.

Digital Purchase Link

Title - 'For The Many'
Artist - UB40

For those not in the know, UB40 are an English reggae and pop band, formed in December 1978 in Birmingham, England.

The band has had more than 50 singles in the UK Singles Chart, and has also achieved considerable international success.

They have been nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album four times, and in 1984 were nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Group. Indeed, UB40 have sold over 70 million records worldwide.

The ethnic make-up of the band's original line-up was diverse, with musicians of English, Welsh, Irish, Jamaican, Scottish and Yemeni parentage.

Their hit singles include their debut "Food for Thought" and two Billboard Hot 100 number ones with "Red Red Wine" and "Can't Help Falling in Love".

Both of these also topped the UK Singles Chart, as did the band's version of "I Got You Babe".

Their two most successful albums, Labour of Love (1983) and Promises and Lies (1993), reached number one on the UK Albums Chart.

UB40 and the English ska band Madness hold the record for most weeks spent by a group in the UK singles chart during the 1980s, with 214 weeks each.

The band's line-up was stable for nearly 29 years, from March 1979 until January 2008, when front man Ali Campbell left the band, followed shortly thereafter by keyboardist Mickey Virtue.

Another member, Astro, remained with the band until November 2013, when he departed the original band to team up with Campbell and Virtue in a new version of UB40.

In 2014, legal advice was sought by the original band (now consisting of remaining co-founding members drummer Jimmy Brown, guitarist Robin Campbell, bassist Earl Falconer, percussionist Norman Hassan, and saxophonist Brian Travers, along with new vocalist Duncan Campbell) who took action against the group containing Campbell, Virtue, and Astro over usage of the band name, due to its being used by both parties.

For The Many is the Birmingham reggae veterans' nineteenth studio album - their first since 2013's Getting Over The Storm - and is the latter of the two UB40's mentioned above re: Campbell (co-vocals/Guitar), Travers (saxophone/keyboards), Brown (drums), Falconer (bass/keyboards/vocals), Hassan (percussion/vocals) and Campbell (vocals), Meredith (saxophone), Parry (trumpet) and Mullings (keyboards).

It also includes guest appearances from Birmingham rapper Gilly G, who features on the video for "Moonlight Lover" and Jamaican artist/producer Kabaka Pyramid on "Broken Man".

Furthermore, UB40 are reunited with reggae deejays/artists Pablo Rider on "I'm Alright Jack" and Slinger on "Gravy Train", both of whom appeared on the band's 1985 album Baggariddim.

1. "The Keeper"
2. "Broken Man"
3. "Gravy Train"
4. "I'm Alright Jack"
5. "Moonlight Lover"
6. "You Haven't Called"
7. "What Happened To UB40?"
8. "Bulldozer"
9. "Poor Fool"
10. "All We Do Is Cry"

On a heavy-delayed album - due initially to the situation with HMV, who are one of the major outlets in the UK for their physical product and then with Pledge Music in turmoil (and with uncertainty regarding their financial situation) - UB40 couldn't wait any longer to get their new music out to their fans.

And rightly so as For The Many is not only aptly titled, but a glorious return to form for them. Indeed, once both "The Keeper" and the lush, super smooth "Broken Man" have drawn you into their delicious reggae mood, the fun pop-roll bounce of "Gravy Train" is lovingly upon us.

The lo-fi gentle hipsway of "I'm Alright Jack" is delightful to sit back and close your eyes to and is backed the lover's rock vibe of "Moonlight Lover."

Next up is more of their smooth pop-roll on the stunning musicianship of "You Haven't Called," with the tongue in cheek "What Happened To UB40?" following it.

That's backed seamlessly by both the full on, loud and proud "Bulldozer" and the lesser-edged "Poor Fool." The album then rounds out with the euphoric, school choir enhanced, Hunterz-sung "All We Do Is Cry."

Amazon CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Next Train Home'
Artist - Reza Khan

For those not in the know, the New York City-based, Bangladesh-born Reza Khan serves as program manager for the UN, contributing to peace and conflict operations throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Indeed, it was during a recent six-week trek abroad that he wrote the twelve songs for this brand new album, Next Train Home (out April 5th, 2019 via Painted Media LLC.).

Severely dehydrated from the oppressive heat during his travels from Mali to Uganda, Khan was hospitalized after collapsing in a United Nations office.

To avoid the lengthy hospitalization prescribed by doctors, he convinced them that he would recover faster if he was ensconced in a hotel room instead.

During that five-day stay, he broke out his portable guitar and wrote the title track for this, his fifth album, 'Next Train Home.'

Indeed, he actually recorded the conceptual ideas for the entire album on his laptop using the very same folding guitar and a simple keyboard that he travels with in his backpack.

After experimenting with rock, pop, world music and soul-jazz over the course of his first four albums, Khan believes that composing the music for Next Train Home took him in a creative direction that led to his self-discovery as an artist in search of a “home.”

1. 'Drop of Faith' (featuring Nils)
2. 'Gathering' (featuring Jeff Kashiwa and Philippe Saisse)
3. 'Clear Skies'
4. 'It’s About Time' (featuring Jeff Kashiwa and Matt King)
5. 'Beyond the Trees' (featuring Andy Snitzer)
6. 'Zero Tolerance' (featuring Philippe Saisse and David Mann)
7. 'Club 368' (featuring David Mann)
8. 'Plutonik' (featuring Philippe Saisse)
9. 'The Way'
10. 'Cloud Nine' (featuring Andy Snitzer)
11. 'Under the Moon' (featuring David Mann)
12. 'Next Train Home' (featuring Mark Egan and Matt King)

The album begins with some gentle opening lite jazz chords, before 'Drop Of Faith' (the single off the album, and co-produced with the featured artist Nils) opens its musical stride.

Next up is the fun 'Gathering' which features some wonderful sax work from Jeff Kashiwa and key work from Philippe Saisse and that's backed by the more mellow flow off 'Clear Skies.'

'It’s About Time' is up next and is one of my own personal favorites here. Combining a beautiful palette of musical multi-formats, it also incorporates more horn work from Kashiwa along with dulcet piano work from Matt King.

The lush 'Beyond the Trees,' featuring Andy Snitzer on percussion is a joy to behold, and is perfectly enhanced by the captivating piano work of King.

Next up is the sterner growth of 'Zero Tolerance' (featuring Saisse on bass, David Mann on drums and some excellent sax work from Mark Egan) which in turn is followed by the atmospheric salsa vibe of 'Club 368' (featuring Gumbi Ortiz on percussion and some rather delightful, free flowing flute work from Mann).

The upbeat and highly playful 'Plutonik' (featuring Saisse on bass and Ortiz on percussion) is brilliant from start to finish as is the tranquil nature of 'The Way.'

Featuring Sergio Pereira on rhythm and Saisse once again on bass, it's one of those tracks where Khan's guitar playing really comes to the fore.

The album then rounds out with the gentle hipsway of 'Cloud Nine,' which features Snitzer on horns, the joyous melodies found within 'Under the Moon' (featuring Mann), and then the last song is the playful, sunny-skied title track itself 'Next Train Home' (featuring Egan and King).

Amazon Digital Download Purchase Link

Reza Khan @ Facebook!

Title - 'Songs of Inspiration'
Artist - Professor Louie and The Crowmatix

For those not in the know, Professor Louie & the Crowmatix is a Woodstock, New York based Americana/roots/Blues musical group led by Aaron Louis Hurwitz, who collaborated with The Band for over fifteen years.

Indeed, he is a musician and producer, nicknamed "Professor Louie" by Rick Danko.

Professor Louie & the Crowmatix' music is American Roots Music. Meaning it's a righteous blend of blues, rock, R&B, gospel, and folk with harmonic vocals.

The current members - Professor Louie (Keys, Accordion, Vocals); John Platania (Guitar, Vocals); Gary Burke (Drums); Miss Marie (Vocals, Percussionist, Keys); and Frank Campbell (Bass, Vocals) - all hail from New York state although as a band, they have all lived, traveled, and performed extensively around the globe.

The torchbearer of the true spirit of Americana Roots music, this seasoned set of live performers, led by the prolific recording artist, and versatile multi-instrumentalist Louie, will soon release a brand new album entitled Songs Of Inspiration (April 5th, 2019 via Woodstock Records).

1. 'I Shall Not Be Moved' (Traditional) (2:47)
2. 'Up Above My Head' (3:31)
3. 'I'm On My Way' (Traditional) (4:15)
4. 'Rivers Of Babylon' (3:30)
5. 'You'll Never Walk Alone' (4:10)
6. 'Open Hand, Open Heart' (3:56)
7. 'Glory Now' (4:13)
8. 'Melody Of Peace' (4:01)
9. 'Motherless Child' (Traditional) (3:48)
10. 'Angel Band' (Traditional) (3:01)
11. 'Daughters & Sons' (3:51)

The opening track, the traditional 'I Shall Not Be Moved' is the most perfect way to introduce us back into their musical fold, and that's backed seamlessly by both the upbeat and powerfully vibrant 'Up Above My Head' and the Hammond organ, fantastic blues vibe of 'I'm On My Way' (Traditional).

One of my all-time favorites through my time listening to music has always been 'Rivers of Babylon' and that's the next track here. A Rastafari song written and recorded by Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton of the Jamaican reggae group The Melodians in 1970, it was popularized in Europe by the 1978 Boney M. cover version.

Originally a show tune from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel, next up is 'You'll Never Walk Alone.' However, and for the longest time now, the song has also been sung at British soccer grounds; a tradition that began at Liverpool F.C. after the chart success of the 1963 single of the song by the local Liverpool group Gerry and the Pacemakers.

The mysteriously alluring 'Open Hand, Open Heart' is next and is followed by the joyous and upbeat accordion-based 'Glory Now.' The quietly peaceful 'Melody Of Peace' is next and that's backed by the foot-tappin' organ and guitar Gospel work of the spiritual 'Motherless Child' (Traditional).

This quite breathtakingly stirring album then rounds out with the accordion work of the Celtic-laced 'Angel Band' (Traditional) and then the rockabilly, twistin' and turnin' dancefloor beauty 'Daughters & Sons.'

Professor Louie and The Crowmatix have released 17 CDs (inclusive of this one) and maintain a steady performance schedule.

Their CD Crowin' The Blues was voted top 50 CD's of 2017 by RMR and in 2018, their EP The Lost Band Tracks-Funzalo/Woodstock Records received great reviews and strong radio airplay.

Amazon CD Purchase Link

Professor Louie and The Crowmatix@ Facebook!

Title - 'Cruel Intentions: The '90s Musical'
Artist - Various

Coinciding almost perfectly with the 20th anniversary of the Roger Kumble film from which it is based, the new Off-Broadway musical 'Cruel Intentions' uses hit songs from the 1990s as its central motif.

Throughout the show, cast members pay tribute to the decade with stellar performances of The Verve's 'Bittersweet Symphony', Christina Aguilera's 'Genie In a Bottle', the Cardigans' 'Lovefool' and the lead single from the film itself, the highly-infectious yet one-hit wonder-bound 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' (Deep Blue Something).

So, as I'm sure you can all attest to yourselves, those of you of a certain age that were teens when this film originally came out of course, first love is truly a bittersweet symphony!

Ergo, not only the stage play of the same name, but the plethora of radio hits from that decade found here on this just-released 18-track Original Cast Album once again pull you into the manipulative world of Manhattan’s most dangerous liaisons: Sebastian Valmont and Kathryn Merteuil!

Seduced by revenge and fueled by passion, the two diabolically charming step-siblings place a bet on whether or not Sebastian can deflower their incoming headmaster’s daughter, Annette Hargrove.

As the two set out to destroy the innocent girl—and anyone who gets in their way—they find themselves entangled in a web of secrets, temptation, and the cruelest game of all: love.

The album really does capture the '90s perfectly, with these well-voiced cast members bringing us such classics as favorite throwback hits by artists like: Boyz II Men, Christina Aguilera, REM, *NSYNC, and, of course, Britney Spears and even 'Kiss Me' from the highly-underrated Sixpence None the Richer.

Two time Grammy-winning record producer Stewart Lerman took music director Zach Spound's orchestrations and arrangements from 'Cruel Intentions: The '90s Musical' into his studio in August of this year and came out with, well, … this!

The album kicks off with an original from the Off Broadway Cast, 'Every You, Every Me,' which amazingly sounds like it was born in the '90s! The guitar heavy power track is clearly built for the stage, but begins our nostalgic trip down memory lane just perfectly.

Melissa Etheridge's powerful vocals still come through on the multi cast-sung 'I'm The Only One' with both Lauren Zakrin and Constantine Rousouli on Aguilera's 'Genie In A Bottle' and Carrie St. Louis' quite brilliant 'Just A Girl' (No Doubt) well worthy of a spot here too.

A cover bandesque 'I Want It That Way' (*NSYNC) from both Alex Boniello and Brian Muller lacks strength and I was also hoping for more passion from Six Pence None the Richer's 'Kiss Me' (Cast).

Constantine Rousouli and Carrie St. Louis get the music back on track with a rousing 'Lovefool' (The Cardigans) and that's backed by much better collaboration from Alex Boniello and Brian Muller on *NSYNC's blazingly addictive 'Bye Bye Bye.'

One of the highlights of the original movie was 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' (Deep Blue Something) and I'm here to say that both Jessie Shelton and Matthew Griffin knock it out of the park!

Sadly, Matthew Griffin, Lauren Zakrin and Patricia Richardson on TLC's 'No Scrubs' doesn't work for me as there's just too much plot point chit-chat in between, but the soundtrack gets back on track with the Cast-sung 'Only Happy When It Rains / Act 1 Finale Medley.'

Boyz II Men's beautiful 'I'll Make Love To You' is slaughtered here by the pitched wail of Jessie Shelton (although Alex Boniello, Brian Muller and Matthew Griffin all manage to harmonize decently enough), but a stunning rendition of Natalie Imbruglia's catchy 'Torn' by Carrie St. Louis and Constantine Rousouli make up for it in spades.

The Counting Crows' love song 'Colorblind,' sung here by Constantine Rousouli and Carrie St. Louis and backed by the Cast is a lovely musical moment, and then comes Rousouli doing his karaoke version of The Goo-Goo Dolls' 'Iris.'

Jewel's 'Foolish Games' gets a rather splendid crack at the whip from Carrie St. Louis, with the album rounding out nicely with 'Kathryn's Turn Medley' by Lauren Zakrin and Constantine Rousouli (inclusive of a highly charged 'Bitch' - Meredith Brooks), before the Cast come together for an acoustic guitar singalong on The Verve's 'Bittersweet Symphony.'

NYC’s most intoxicating new musical is a full-on ’90s party so run out and get this wonderful Original Cast Album recording now!

Chock full of all the songs you know and love from the '90s allow yourself to be transported back to a much better era of music than we have now!

Amazon CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Born To Sing: Deluxe Edition'
Artist - En Vogue

For those not in the know, En Vogue is an American R&B/pop vocal group whose original lineup consisted of singers Terry Ellis, Dawn Robinson, Cindy Herron, and Maxine Jones.

Formed in Oakland, California in 1989, En Vogue reached number two on the US Hot 100 with the single 'Hold On', taken from their 1990 debut album Born To Sing.

The group's 1992 follow-up album Funky Divas reached the top 10 in both the US and UK, and included their second US number two hit 'My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)' as well as the US top 10 hits 'Giving Him Something He Can Feel' and the monster smash 'Free Your Mind'.

In 1996, 'Don't Let Go (Love)' became the group's third, and most successful single, to reach number two in the US, and became their sixth number one on the US R&B chart.

Robinson left the group in 1997 shortly before the release of their third album EV3, which reached the US and UK top 10. Jones left the group in 2001, Amanda Cole joined shortly thereafter.

However, in 2003, Cole left the group, and Rhona Bennett joined the group during the recording of their album Soul Flower. In 2005, the original members briefly united before disassembling again.

In 2009, the original members once again reunited for their En Vogue: 20th Anniversary. Shortly after the tour, Robinson and Jones again departed from En Vogue, with Bennett rejoining the group as a trio.

En Vogue has sold more than 20 million records worldwide to date, and are often considered one of the best female vocal groups of all time. The group has won seven MTV Video Music Awards, three Soul Train Awards, two American Music Awards, and received seven Grammy nominations.

Cherry Red Records (UK) are now proud to launch 90/9, their dedicated new '90s imprint, with a Deluxe Edition of the aforementioned iconic album from En Vogue, Born To Sing.

Furthermore, this Deluxe Edition marks the first occasion that one of En Vogue’s classic albums has been given an expanded reissue.

Produced by Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy, Born To Sing features the signature hit ‘Hold On’ (#2 US, #1 US R&B and #5 UK), plus ‘Lies’ and ‘You Don’t Have to Worry’ (both also #1 R&B smashes) and ‘Don’t Go’ (#3 R&B).

The sought-after single versions of all four singles are included here as bonus tracks along with a comprehensive selection of remixes, many of which were originally issued only on vinyl and have been unavailable ever since.

CD 1:
1. 'PARTY'
3. 'LIES'
5. 'HOLD ON'
10. 'DON’T GO

Bonus Tracks:
13. 'SILENT NITE' (Holiday Edit)
14. 'MOVER'
16. 'HOLD ON' (Seven Inch Edit)
17. 'LIES' (The Avant Garde Remix)
18. 'YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORRY' (Radio Remix Edit)
19. 'DON’T GO' (Radio Edit)

The original album opens with some spoken rap (at a 'Party', of course) and features one of the best chat up line comebacks I've ever heard on any album re: "What's your sign?" - "Stop sign!" That's backed by the finger-snappin' dancefloor slide of 'Strange' and the mid-tempo groove of 'Lies.'

Next up is a wicked R&B tribute to The Andrews Sisters' 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy' and then a simply incredible vocal on the pulsating 'Hold On.' The ballad 'Part Of Me' is as delightful to hear now as it was back then and that's followed by the lite funk of 'You Don't Have To Worry.'

In much the sane vein, 'Time Goes On' is next and is backed by the two ballads 'Just Can't Stay Away' and 'Don't Go.' The gentle hipsway of 'Luv Lines' is next and that wraps up the original album nicely.

Amongst the 8 bonus tracks featured on the first disc is their 1991 holiday single ‘Silent Nite’, produced by Chuckii Booker. This festive favorite originally featured on the Remix to Sing EP alongside specially-commissioned remixes of Born to Sing tracks from Steve “Silk” Hurley, Frankie Knuckles, Marley Marl, Martin Van Blockson and DJ Eddie F. & Dave Hall; all of which appear on this Deluxe Edition.

We also get two acappella bonus tracks: the Japanese-only 1991 single ‘Mover’ and the rare studio recording of the American national anthem ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ (here simply as 'National Anthem'), originally released only as a cassette single B-side.

CD 2:
1. 'HOLD ON' (Extended Version)
2. 'LIES' (The Extended Avant Garde Remix)
3. 'YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORRY" (Club New Breed Mix)
4. 'SILENT NITE' (Long Holiday Mix)
5. 'STRANGE' (House Remix)
6. 'TIME GOES ON' (Dance Remix)
7. 'LIES' (New Jack Remix)
8. 'YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORRY' (Club Remix)
9. 'HOLD ON' (Hip Hop Remix)
10. 'LIES' (Extended Funky Remix)
12. 'HOLD ON' (Dub Version)
13. 'LIES' (Kwameì’s Bone Age Remix)
14. 'YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORRY' (Lo Cal Mix)
The second disc is chock full of remixes, but as is the norm, the tendency for song overkill can, come the final bend begin to overwhelm ones enjoyment of the tracks.

That said, my personal stand out favorites having now listened to this disc through twice back-to-back, are cuts such as 'Silent Nite' (Long Holiday Mix), 'Lies' (New Jack Remix), and both 'Hold On' (Hip Hop Remix) and the brilliant 'Lies' (Kwame's Bone Age Remix).

With direct input from En Vogue and Foster/McElroy, this Deluxe Edition boasts an extensive booklet containing new sleeve notes, a fully illustrated discography and lyrics.

Official CD Purchase Link

En Vogue @ Twitter!

Title - 'Me & Mrs Jones: The Anthology'
Artist - Billy Paul

For those not in the know, Paul Williams (December 1, 1934 – April 24, 2016), known professionally as Billy Paul, was a Grammy Award-winning American soul singer, known for his 1972 #1 single, 'Me and Mrs. Jones', as well as the 1973 album and single 'War of the Gods' (which blends his more conventional pop, soul, and funk styles with electronic and psychedelic influences).

He was one of the many artists associated with the Philadelphia soul sound created by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Thom Bell.

Indeed, Paul was identified by his diverse vocal style which ranged from mellow and soulful to low and raspy.

Questlove of the Roots equated Paul to Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, calling him "... one of the criminally unmentioned proprietors of socially conscious post-revolution '60s civil rights music."

SoulMusic Records (via Cherry Red Records UK) has just released Me & Mrs Jones: The Anthology, a stunning 31-track 2-CD retrospective saluting the artistry of distinctive soul’n’ jazz song stylist Billy Paul; spanning ten studio albums he recorded between 1969-1985.

This anthology features all of Billy's thirteen US charted singles for PIR including 'Thanks For Saving My Life' and 'Am I Black Enough For You' as well as 'You're My Sweetness' (from a 1979 Best Of Billy Paul collection) and 'New Day, New World Comin' (from 1977's PIR album, Let's Clean Up The Ghetto); plus three tracks from Billy's 1985 Total Experience LP.

CD 1: People Power
13. 'LET ‘EM IN'

The light and breezy R&B of the Elton John cover 'Your Song' is up first and that's backed by the Gamble & Huff stunner, and official Black Lightning theme, 'Am I Black Enough For You.' The classic Philadelphia sound of 'Brown Baby' is next and that's followed by the Philly lushness of 'The Whole Town's Talking' (check out the rhythm in the musical break for a true groove vibe).

The funk is back for both 'Thanks For Saving My Life' and 'Only The Strong Survive' with the slow bass guitar backbeat of 'How Good Is Your Games' being one for the ages. The dancefloor gets a hit here on 'Be Truthful To Me' with the bass funk of 'False Faces' and the lush orchestrations of 'People Power' following seamlessly along.

Next up is that heralded old soul sound of 'Let The Dollar Circulate' and that's backed by the Philly funk of 'Bring The Family Back.' Released in 1976 and peaking at a ridiculous-to-think-of-now #91, his fantastic cover of the Paul McCartney/Wings hit 'Let 'Em In' is still such a massive joy to hear today, and that's followed by the fast funk groove of 'America (We Need The Light).'

The first disc then rounds out with both the stand loud and be proud 'We All Got A Mission' and then the excellent funk vibe of 'New Day, New World Comin' from 1977.

CD 2: You're My Sweetness
13. 'LATELY'
14. 'LET ME IN'

The second disc picks up where the first ended with the piano lush 'This Is Your Life' (from his underrated Going East album) and then backs that up with forthright 'Ebony Woman,' the soaring ballad 'Let's Fall In Love All Over Again,' and then comes the beautiful, soothing instruments found within his massive 1972 hit, 'Me & Mrs. Jones.'

The emotional truth found within 'It's Too Late' still resonates with us all today, I feel, and that's followed by Paul testifying his pain on 'I Was Married.'

The laid back Philly soul of 'When Love Is New' is yet another stand out track here and that's backed by both the upbeat ballad 'You're My Sweetness' and the gentleness of 'Let's Make A Baby.'

Billy's beautiful and soothing voice comes to the fore once again on the ballad 'Billy's Back Home,' with the goosebump-inspiring 'I Think I'll Stay Home Today' along next.

This wondrous second disc comes to a close with the orchestrally brilliant 'I Trust You,' the lovely pairing of his mid-'80s ballads 'Lately' and 'Let Me In,' with Billy's tribute to Marvin Gaye 'Sexual Therapy' wrapping things up nicely.

In a personal reflections commentary, SoulMusic Records founder David Nathan notes that in sequencing Disc One, he became aware of the timeless and timely lyrical messages in many of Billy’s ‘70s recordings featured here, including ‘False Faces’, ‘Let The Dollar Circulate’, and ‘We All Got A Mission’.

New liner notes included are by renowned US writer Kevin Goins and include quotes from Dexter Wansel; plus first class artwork from Roger Williams and remastering from Nick Robbins.

Official CD Purchase Link

Billy Paul @ Facebook

Title - 'Andy Bell's Torsten in Queereteria'
Artist - Andy Bell

For those not in the know, Torsten In Queereteria is the third solo album by Andy Bell (Erasure) performing as alter-ego Torsten; a gender-fluid, semi-immortal who, having loved and lost many during an unnaturally elongated life, is left haunted by his lifetime of bittersweet memories.

Torsten is a role Andy Bell first took up at the Edinburgh Fringe Theatre Festival in 2014 in Torsten The Bareback Saint, and a role reprised by him in the critically acclaimed, 2016 follow up, Torsten The Beautiful Libertine which enjoyed a sell-out run at London’s Above The Stag Theatre.

Torsten In Queereteria is a unique pop / musical theatre collaboration between Erasure singer Andy Bell, poet/playwright Barney Ashton-Bullock and musician Christopher Frost.

This new album, three years in the making, is structured around four separate themed Acts which deal with different aspects of both Torsten’s life story and his self-realisation; each song designed as if a postcard insight into a particular hot-spot of memory.

ACT 1: Remembrance, Youth and Beauty

ACT 2: The Hedonism and The Hurting

ACT 3: Bitter Regrets

ACT 4: To Mourn and To Miss

A surreal tale spun end to end, Andy Bell's Torsten in Queereteria is the further spawning of a man born in 1905 who's been and seen a lot of things in his time. Being 114, Torsten has made his fair share of friends along the way and he speaks of a few of them here on this third installment.

With this new album being even more anarchic than its two predecessors, the album (Act One) opens with Torsten in a deeply reflective mood on ‘A Hundred Years Plus Today.’

Mulling over the in's and out's of the longevity of his life it precedes three recollections, in song, of intense events from long ago times spent with lost friends and lovers.

It also speaks of the hope, uniquely embodied in coming from a coastal town, that the sea might deliver temptations in the guise of sailor lovers.

Act Two narrates a headlong bounding into hedonism; interacting with strange, seaside town, cottaging cruisers in ‘Cabaret Awayday’, to the respite and debauchery afforded by trips to the Queereteria cruising club and a stout defense of partying and drunkenness in ‘If We Want To Drink A Little’ (a duet with my beloved friend, Hazel O’Connor of ‘Breaking Glass’ fame).

A haunted soul, it's obvious Torsten doesn't particularly enjoy still being around, even though his search for the Fountain of Youth is one shared by many, of course.

In Act Three, Torsten hits rock bottom and becomes a tad unpleasant and bitter. ‘Thou Shalt Be My Vibe’ portrays a manipulative, drugged-up, drunk Torsten driving a potentially exploitative relationship.

‘Money With Menaces’ is an ode to the bitterness of both parties in a rent-boy / sugar daddy relationship. ‘Let’s Be Sober Another Time’ sees Torsten in denial of his chronic alcoholism which leads, in turn, to a mindless and provocative challenge to all his remaining friends and cohorts to ‘Come And Taste My Breakdown’, concluding Act Three.

Within these lyrics we discover that his bones are really brittle now and that he is beginning to get worn out from all the partying and good times, but yet he forges forward - now within his drug-addled state.

Levity is restored in Act Four in which an older Torsten is in more reflective mood about leaving his partying years behind.

‘To Know Good Men From Perverts’ is the culmination of the experience that life affords in learning one of its ultimate lessons, the discernment between those who we can trust and those who seek to harm us.

‘We Hadn’t Slept For Twenty Years’, the lead single from the album, is a loving reminiscence of close friends and the mayhem and mirth of their formative years partying with a vengeance!

‘Silence Is Golden’ pays emotional tribute to an aged lover who has recently died, someone who sublimated the existential angst and fear of knowing he was nearing death by a mania to read widely and an insistence on ‘Silence’ to enable him to do so.

‘Not Opting Out’, the album’s defiant closing number is Torsten’s reckoning that though his own life may be nearer its end, he remains stalwartly an active participant in it; even though the ever accelerating pace of change is spiritually and physically exhausting, he will not be defeated.

The musical tale of a semi-immortal polysexual who is destined to love many, lose many and be haunted by bittersweet memories, Andy Bell's Torsten in Queereteria is a quite stunning work of musical art that, as Andy himself has said on more than one occasion, has taxed him re: the spoken word epilogues.

But here, well, he nails every line, every forceful emittance of love, hope despair and reward as if his life depended on it.

The CD comes with a richly illustrated 32 page lyric booklet.

Official CD Purchase Link

Andy Bell @ Twitter

Title - 'Samuel Barber Piano Concerto & Solo Piano Works'
Artist - Kevin Robert Orr

For those not in the know, much like myself, concert pianist Kevin Robert Orr pursues a dynamic agenda as performer, professor, masterclass clinician, lecturer and adjudicator that has taken him to major music institutions and festivals across North America, Europe, China, South Korea and Australia.

A strong advocate of the music of living composers, Orr has premiered and recorded solo and ensemble works by composers Jennifer Margaret Barker, Paul Basler, Houston Dunleavy, Paul Richards, Robert Rollin, and John Weinsweig.

Orr’s critically acclaimed solo recordings include the complete sonatas and ballades of Johannes Brahms, and the just-released piano concerto and sonata of Samuel Barber.

Here on Samuel Barber Piano Concerto & Solo Piano Works (Meyer Media LLC) Orr joins forces with Maestro En Shao and the RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra to record Samuel Barber's Pulitzer Prize winning Piano Concerto.

Included on this recording is Barber's Piano Sonata, as well as his Nocturne and Ballade and trust me when I say that from start to finish this album us a genuine and pure delight to behold.

As my introduction to the works of Samuel Barber, my general take on the collection is that Orr does a rather excellent job conveying the moods of Barber's music on this compilation; which are alternately meditative and unsettled.

Beautifully performed, this fresh interpretation on Barber's piano and solo works - as I've since come to learn - really inherits the works that Barber was creating.

By that I mean Barber was creating tonal music at a time in the mid-20th century when atonality and aleatoric music were considered the new frontiers in modern classical.

Although neo-romanticism did eventually catch on, Barber was deeply affected by the rejection of his music by critics/peers and especially by the poor reception of his opera entitled Antony and Cleopatra (1966).

As Barber indicated, this opera contained some of his finest work and it has to be said that this expansive new reiteration from the seasoned Orr evokes that period, that passion, that devotion almost seamlessly.

Title - 'Beethoven Piano Sonatas Vol.8'
Artist - Jonathan Biss

For those not in the know, much like myself, Jonathan Biss was born in 1980; his professional debut preceded this event by several months, when he performed, prenatally, the Mozart A Major Violin Concerto at Carnegie Hall, with the Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of Lorin Maazel.

Subsequent violin performances have shown greater independence, though they have also been more likely to send listeners running in the opposite direction, wildly searching for Ear, Nose and Throat specialists, and handguns!

Although the highlight of his career as a violinist took place when he was a fetus, Mr. Biss’ childhood was nonetheless saturated with music.

With both of his parents playing the violin, and his older brother Daniel taking up the piano, he remembers music emanating from nearly every room in the house, including bathrooms, which, while modest in their decor, were valued for their acoustical properties.

Growing up in Bloomington, Indiana, Mr. Biss was blessed with excellent teachers and at the age of 17, Mr. Biss went to the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied with Leon Fleisher, which proved a phenomenal learning experience.

Around the same time, Mr. Biss began concertizing, highlights of which have included post-natal reengagements with Ms. Fried (with Mr. Biss a less reticent partner this time around), Maestro Maazel, and in November 2007, the Cleveland Orchestra.

While Mr. Biss’s life in music provides him with tremendous satisfaction, playing music remains ever a struggle. On the just-released Beethoven Piano Sonatas Vol.8 Nos 8 (Pathétique), 10, 22 & 31 (Meyer Media LLC), Biss continues his journey of Beethoven Piano Sonatas.

Exploring his infinite perspective and masterful performance of some of Ludwig's most cherished music, the variety within each work is lovingly brought to the fore here by the earnest Biss.

Showcasing an astonishing passion for preciseness within each work, their deeply embedded originality still present and correct, but here Biss' range enables them to, if only for the moment perhaps, become his.

Title - 'Spear of Destiny - The Albums 1983-1985'
Artist - Spear of Destiny

For those not in the know, Spear of Destiny is a British rock band, founded in 1983 by singer and songwriter Kirk Brandon and bassist Stan Stammers.

Complete with an ever-changing line-up throughout the years, the band's original line-up consisted of Brandon, Stammers, Chris Bell and Lascelles James.

In late 1983 this line-up was superseded by Dolphin Taylor on drums, Alan St Clair on guitar, John Lennard on sax and Neil Pyzer on keyboards and additional saxophone. In 1984 John Lennard was replaced by Mickey Donnelly on Saxophone.

Having released their debut album Grapes of Wrath in 1983 (which reached #62 on the UK Album Charts), their second album, One Eyed Jacks was subsequently released in 1984 (reaching #22).

It was no wonder then that Spear of Destiny’s reputation in the mid-1980s began to rise with their growing fame dependent on their powerful live performances.

In 1985, their album, World Service reached #20 but founder Stammers left the band the year later due to internal struggles. In the wake of the release of the fourth album, Outland (1987) and its Top 15 hit 'Never Take Me Alive', the band began achieving some chart success and staging sell-out concerts; including a support slot to U2 at Wembley Stadium.

However, ill fortune struck on the eve of the band’s appearance at the Reading Festival, as Brandon developed reactive arthritis which obliged the band to put all their plans on hold for nearly a year. This just-released 56 track 3CD clamshell box-set entitled The Albums 1983-1985 contains pretty much everything that Spear Of Destiny released on Epic Records during their time with the label between those years.

Disc 1: Grapes of Wrath
1. 'The Wheel'
2. 'Flying Scotsman'
3. 'Roof of the World'
4. 'Aria'
5. 'Solution'
6. 'The Murder of Love'
7. 'The Preacher'
8. 'Omen of the Times'
9. 'The Man Who Tunes the Drums'
10. 'Grapes of Wrath'
Bonus Tracks
11. 'The Hop'
12. 'Flying Scotsman (12" Version)'
13. 'The Preacher (Cassette Mix)'
14. 'Omen of the Times (Cassette Mix)'
15. 'Grapes of Wrath (Live)'
17. 'The Preacher (Live)'
18. 'Solution (Live)'
19. 'Roof of the World (Live)'
20. 'Love Is a Ghost (Live)'

The first CD album is their debut Grapes of Wrath and it features the #59 (UK Singles Chart) single ‘The Wheel.’ Recorded at a turbulent, yet creative time in the life of front man Brandon (who had been gaining notoriety with his band Theatre Of Hate during the beginning of the '80s, but couldn't keep a solid line-up together long enough to truly gel), the album was more of a hit on an underground level; reaching fellow musicians and artists if not the masses.

Now inclusive of a brilliant nine (9) bonus tracks comprising a rarely heard 12" vinyl cut,two cassette mixes never previously released on CD and five amazing live tracks (all featuring the original line-up), this album was the true sound of "New Wave" at the time (until the kids discovered synthesizers and shot the whole thing to shit!)

Disc 2: One Eyed Jacks
1. 'Rainmaker'
2. 'Young Men'
3. 'Everything You Ever Wanted'
4. 'Don't Turn Away'
5. 'Liberator'
6. 'Prisoner of Love'
7. 'Playground of the Rich'
8. 'Forbidden Planet'
9. 'Attica'
10. 'These Days Are Gone'
Bonus Tracks
11. 'Rosie'
12. 'Grapes of Wrath (1984 Version)'
13. 'Forbidden Planet (Single Version)'
14. 'Liberator (Dub)'
15. 'Liberator (Extended Mix)'
16. 'Rainmaker (Live)'
17. 'Don't Turn Away (Live)'
18. 'The Wheel (Live)'
19. 'Prisoner of Love (Live)'
20. 'Liberator (Live)'

One Eyed Jacks was the bands sophomore album and includes the UK singles 'Prisoner Of Love’ (#59) and ‘Liberator’ (#67). On an album where no chances were taken with their formula which meant that it barely progressed from the sounds of its predecessor, SOD brought forth the same clattering tribal drums, the same honking sax soaring through the mix, and the same near-operatic swoop of vocals and yelps seamlessly.

That said, a year of constant gigging had honed the band to perfection, and a clutch of new songs kick off with the triumphant 'Rainmaker' and just keep rising from there.

Now featuring an incredible ten bonus tracks, inclusive of another five (5) live cuts, the album is as complete now as it has ever been.

Disc 3: World Service
1. 'Rocket Ship'
2. 'Up All Night'
3. 'Come Back'
4. 'World Service'
5. 'I Can See'
6. 'All My Love (Ask Nothing)'
7. 'Mickey'
8. 'Somewhere in the East'
9. 'Once in Her Lifetime'
10. 'Harlan County'
Bonus Tracks
11. 'Last Card'
12. 'Walk in My Shadow'
13. 'Cole Younger'
14. 'Young Men (Return Of)'
15. 'Come Back (Club Mix)'
16. 'All My Love (Ask Nothing) (Extended Version)'
17. 'Come Back (Dub Mix)'

The third disc is World Service which contains the singles ‘All My Love (Ask Nothing)’ (#61) and ‘Come Back’ (#55). A brash power-pop attempt that honestly doesn't match the raw energy of its predecessors it was seen at the time as an attempt to expand on the commercial appeal of their sophomore album.

The fact is though where its immediate predecessor possessed an acerbic bite, World Service was a collection of rather more blunt homilies that just didn't hold up in the same way.

However, and now emblazoned with seven non LP B-side cuts, inclusive of a rather powerful and still fantastic to hear 'Come Back (Club Mix)' and 'All My Love (Ask Nothing) (Extended Version)', the album is definitely one for the SOD completist.

3CD Box-Set Purchase Link

Title - 'Ain't No Storm'
Artist - Tony Lucca

For those not in the know, the Detroit-born and now Nashville-based singer-songwriter Tony Lucca is an American singer, songwriter, producer, and actor perhaps best known for starting his career on The Mickey Mouse Club.

After the Mickey Mouse Club, Lucca went to Los Angeles, California, for a brief career as an actor, then became a full-time musician.

He is a consistent touring artist and has toured with a multitude of acts, including Maroon 5, Kelly Clarkson, *NSYNC, Marc Anthony, Josh Hoge, Sara Bareilles, Matt Duke, Tyrone Wells, and the late Chris Whitley.

He also finished in third place on the second season (2012) of the American reality television singing competition talent show, The Voice, broadcast on NBC.

Having released ten solo albums, three live albums and many EPs since 1997's So Satisfied, Lucca now brings to us his 11th studio album, the quite stunning Ain't No Storm (Off The Record Music).

1. 'Everything's Changing'
2. 'Come Around'
3. 'One Less You'

4. 'Frame By Frame'
5. 'Restless Heart'
6. 'Empty Handed Blues'
7. 'Room With A View'
8. 'Other Side Of The Clouds'

With Ain't No Storm finding Lucca embracing his musical gift of highly crafted songwriting, this brand new album - which took more than two years to bring to the fore - kicks off with 'Everything's Changing,' an Americana-vibed track of the highest order.

Next up is the acoustic and electric guitar balance of 'Come Around,' which in turn is seamlessly backed by both the atmospheric, stirring 'One Less You' and the youthful flashback within the storytelling of 'Frame By Frame.'

"This is about as honest an album as I could ever make," Lucca admits. "There were very few takes of each song even recorded. Most of the vocals were recorded right along with the acoustic guitar. There was minimal editing and very few overdubs."

That sentiment shines through track after track, especially on my own personal favorite, the soaringly alive 'Restless Heart.' Up next is the raw vocal and sparse instrumentation found on 'Empty Handed Blues' which is followed by mid-tempo hipsway delight 'Room With A View.'

The album then rounds out with those Americana blues seeping through once again on the uplifting, sentiment-inspired 'Other Side Of The Clouds.'

So, asked how he would describe this new album and his sound to someone who hadn't heard it before, Lucca quickly replies, "Refreshingly familiar." Amen, my brother. Amen.

Tony Lucca @ Facebook

Tour Dates 2019:
2/4/2019 - Nashville, TN / Cambria Hotel
2/8/2019 - Kitty Hawk, NC / Jack Brown's
3/4/2019 - Nashville, TN / Cambria Hotel
3/15/2019 - Charlotte, NC / Evening Muse
3/16/2019 - Greensboro, NC / Backyard Stage
3/22/2019 - Decatur, GA / Eddie's Attic (w/Eliot Bronson)
3/23/2019 - Decatur, GA / Eddie's Attic (w/Eliot Bronson)
4/1/2019 - Nashville, TN / Cambria Hotel
4/23/2019 - New York, NY / Rockwood Music Hall (w/Dan Rodriguez)
4/24/2019 - Philadelphia, PA / World Cafe Live (w/Dan Rodriguez)
4/25/2019 - Vienna, VA / Jammin' Java (w/Dan Rodriguez)
4/26/2019 - Boston, MA / City Winery Haymarket (w/Dan Rodriguez)
4/27/2019 - Schenectady, NY / The Van Dyck
4/28/2019 - Basking Ridge, NJ / Ross Farm
5/6/2019 - Nashville, TN / Cambria Hotel
5/29 - 6/2/2019 - Kill Devil Hills, NC / Pat McGee's Down The Hatch

Title - 'Girl In A Million: The Complete Recordings'
Artist - Twinkle

For those not in the know, Lynn Annette Ripley (15 July 1948 – 21 May 2015), better known by the stage name Twinkle, was an English singer-songwriter.

Indeed, she had chart successes in the 1960s with her best known songs such as 'Terry' and 'Golden Lights'.

Housed in a plush-looking Digipak, and being released this April 26th, 2019 via RPM / Cherry Red Records, Girl In A Million: The Complete Recordings contains all of Twinkle’s Decca sides (with two stereo mixes, belatedly issued in the 1970s, making their CD debut).

Likewise, this beautifully presented 2-CD set boasts everything which followed on subsequent labels, which is definitely what all her fans have wanted for the longest of times.

CD 1: The Sixties - The Decca Recordings / The Instant Recordings / Live Recording
1. 'Terry'
2. 'The Boy of My Dreams'
3. 'Golden Lights'
4. 'Ain't Nobody Home But Me'
5. 'Tommy'
6. 'So Sad'
7. 'A Lonely Singing Doll'
8. 'Unhappy Boy'
9. 'Poor Old Johnny'
10. 'I Need Your Hand in Mine'
11. 'The End of the World'
12. 'Take Me to the Dance'
13. 'What Am I Doing Here with You'
14. 'Now I Have You'
15. 'Tommy (German Language Version)'
16. 'Terry (Stereo Version)'
17. 'The Boy of My Dreams (Stereo Version)'
18. 'Micky'
19. 'Darby and Joan'
20. 'Soldier's Dream'
21. 'Micky (Long Version)'
22. 'Sha-La-La-La-Lee (Live)'

Twinkle shot to fame in 1964 with her self-penned “death disc” Terry, which reached #4 in the UK charts and catapulted the singer to instant fame. Of course, that's the very same cut that kicks this trip down memory lane off (I wonder if "Terry" met her at the gates?), and then that's backed by the bouncy pop of 'The Boy of My Dreams' and a track that was even covered by The Smiths, 'Golden Lights.'

One of my all-time favorite Twinkle tracks is also the B-side to 'Golden Lights,' the fun and vibrantly swingin' 'Ain't Nobody Home But Me' and that's backed by both a cover of the Reparata and the Delrons' 'Tommy' and the emotive 'So Sad.'

Next up is her English version of France Gall's 'Poupée de cire, poupée de son' entitled 'Lonely Singing Doll' and that's backed by 'Unhappy Boy,' the gentle hipsway of 'Poor Old Johnny,' 'I Need Your Hand In Mine' (which was also covered in French by Agnès Loti - 'Aujourd'hui c'est ta fête'), and both the Skeeter Davis cover 'The End Of The World' and the fun 'Take Me To The Dance.'

The Decca Recordings round out with another of my favorites, the Bev Harrell classic 'What Am I Doing Here With You' and that's followed by the mid-tempo 'Now I Have You', and then some wondrous bonus tracks in 'Tommy (German Language Version), 'Terry (Galaxy Mix)', and 'The Boy Of My Dreams (Galaxy Mix)'.

Added as a great bonus assortment are four cuts from her Instant Recordings, which include the vibrant and uplifting melodies of her one-off single from that period 'Micky,' the brilliant commentary on a common British expression 'Darby And Joan,' the harmonica-driven 'Soldier's Song,' and then 'Micky (Long Version).'

The first disc then ends with a brilliant (and previously unissued) live recording of the Small Faces' 'Sha La La La Lee' that aside from being a wee bit "fuzzy" at times, still sounds as warranted today in our society as it obviously was back then.

CD 2: The President Recordings / The Bradley's Recordings & Michael Hannah LP / Later Recordings
1. 'Take the Trouble'
2. 'Michael Hannah'
3. 'Days'
4. 'Caroline'
5. 'Radio Station Lady'
6. 'Zefferelli' (aka 'Little Piece of Heaven')
7. 'I Am A Woman'
8. 'Michael Hannah'
9. 'Bowden House'
10. 'Joanna'
11. 'Ladyfriend'
12. 'Jane'
13. 'Soldier'
14. 'Smoochie' (By Bill & Coo)
15. 'Always I Love You' (By Bill & Coo)
16. 'I'm a Believer'
17. 'For Sale'
18. 'Holiday Romance (Demo)'
19. 'Summer Holiday (Demo)'
20. 'Little Piece of Heaven (Demo)'
21. 'A Song for My Son (Demo)'

The second disc opens with 'Take The Trouble' and its original B-side 'Michael Hannah,' both previously unissued tracks by Twinkle. In 1971, she recorded the former as a single for President Records, whilst the latter was written about the love of her life (and was later re-recorded during her time at Bradley’s, but remained in the can until an archive release in 2003).

Her stunning, truly stunning vocal expression on the French-inspired 'Days' is a joy to behold and that's backed seamlessly by the glam rock stompers 'Caroline,' 'Radio Station Lady,' the earnest 'Zeffirelli,' and then both 'I Am A Woman' and her re-released version of 'Michael Hannah.'

The funky bounce of 'Bowden House' is another delight and then comes 'Joanna' which is backed by the near six minute long acoustic guitar and trumpet-enhanced jazz / pop piano beauty 'Ladyfriend.' Man, if this song doesn't lay bare the her vocals to the most luxurious extreme.

Produced by Mike d'Abo, the quietly subtle, and highly poignant 'Jane' is next and then 'Soldier,' with the Bill & Coo single 'Smoochie' and it's B-side 'Always I Love You' along thereafter.

The second disc then begins to come to a close with some later recordings in the form of the Neil Diamond-written but made famous by The Monkees' cover 'I'm A Believer' (although Twinkle's version here is way more pumped up than either of their versions!) and the yearningly raw love song 'For Sale.'

Rounding out the second disc we get a quartet of demos in the form of 'Holiday Romance,' a rousing 'Summer Holiday' (a Cliff Richard and The Shadows cover), and then both 'Little Piece Of Heaven' and a truly touching 'A Song For My Son.'

The package is fully endorsed by Twinkle’s family, including elder sister Dawn, who was a music journalist in the 1960s and helped secure a recording contract for her sibling.

Dawn has written a very personal account of Twinkle’s career, offering a fresh and unique insight into her life and her music.

Official CD Purchase Link

Title - 'Book of Romance and Dust'
Artist - Exit North

For those not in the know, Exit North are Thomas Feiner, Japan co-founder Steve Jansen, Ulf Jansson and Charles Storm are a co-writing partnership first formed when Feiner worked with Jansen on his solo album Slope (2007).

In 2014 they enlisted Ulf Jansson and Charles Storm to form Exit North. Jansen, Storm & Feiner all contribute as multi-instrumentalist, Ulf Jansson on piano and keyboards with lead vocals by Feiner.

Luckily for all their fans, Exit North have just released their debut recording, the quite stunningly creative, atmospheric, and at times melancholic Book of Romance and Dust.

1. 'Bested Bones'
2. 'Short Of One Dimension'
3. 'Sever me'
4. 'Passenger's Wake'
5. 'North'
6. 'Lessons In Doubt'
7. 'Spider'
8. 'Losing'
9. 'Another Chance'

This new album traces the edges of darkness and hope across a nuanced, provocative nine song cycle and brings forth an uncompromising and unconventional debut that explores the collective psyches and diverse influences of its renowned members.

From the hauntingly stoic opener 'Bested Bones' to the gently precise orchestrations found within 'Short Of One Dimension,' on to the ethereal stirring of 'Passenger's Wake,' to the jazz-lite gossamer of 'Lessons In Doubt' and then the near 10 minute opus 'Losing,' Book of Romance and Dust is an album that not only ALL Japan fans will fall in love with, but fans of real and authentic music will too.

Official CD Purchase Link

Exit North @ Facebook

Title - 'The Final Frontier'
Artist - Nik Turner

For those not in the know, the uber talented Nik Turner is an English musician, best known as a former member of space rock pioneers Hawkwind.

Turner plays saxophones, flute, sings and is a composer and whilst with Hawkwind, was known for his experimental free jazz stylizations and, of course, his outrageous stage presence; which often meant donning full makeup and Ancient Egypt-inspired costumes!

Well, boys and girls, the space rock legend has now launched his latest solo project that goes further than any auralnaut has gone before!

Featuring all new and (highly) original songs that harken back to the sci-fi psychedelia of early Hawkwind, the just-released The Final Frontier (Purple Pyramid / Cleopatra Records) is a wondrous nine track album that you'll have on replay for days to come.

1. 'Out of Control'
2. 'Interstellar Aliens'
3. 'Thunder Rider'
4. 'The Final Frontier Part 1'
5. 'Back to the Ship'
6. 'Calling the Egyptians'
7. 'Strange Loop'
8. 'The Final Frontier Part 2'
9. 'Pad4'

From the soaring opening, drumtastic and keyboardliscious track 'Out Of Control' onward, the album is just as wonderfully space prog rock-drenched you could ever have hoped it would be.

The trippy psychedelic swirls of 'Interstellar Aliens' finds Turner at his musical finest, with the more gently building jazz-lite aspects of 'Thunder Rider' (Turner's long-running nickname!) a rather lovely discovery to behold too.

'The Final Frontier Part 1' is a passive walk back down into psychedelic way, with the more upbeat Eastern-flavored guitar sounds and beating drums of 'Back To The Ship' and the forthright energy of 'Calling The Egyptians' along next.

The longest track at nearly nine minutes is the space rock fusion beauty 'Strange Loop,' and that's backed by a short, and for the most part spoken word 'The Final Frontier Part 2' with the flute-inspired 'Pad4' rounding out his/our musical journey perfectly.

Official CD Purchase Link

Nik Turner @ Facebook

Title - Sharp Objects (Music From The HBO Limited Series)
Artist - Various

For those not in the know, Entertainment One has just released this wondrous double vinyl LP Sharp Objects (Music from the HBO Limited Series) soundtrack and musical companion to the groundbreaking summer mini-series as part of Record Store Day 2019.

The crime drama starring Amy Adams as Camille Preaker, a troubled reporter returning home to an equally troubled assignment fast became a smash hit limited series and benefited greatly from the vision of director Jean-Marc Vallée and the Emmy Award-winning music supervision of Susan Jacobs (all drawn from the original Gillian Flynn novel of the same name).

Side A:
1. Franz Waxman - 'Dance and Angela'
2. Mark Batson - 'Cupcake Kitty Curls' (ft. The Rooster Incorporated)
3. Jeffrey Brodsky - 'Glance Backwards (Dance and Angela Jean-Phi Gonclaves Remix)'
4. Jean-Phi Goncalves - 'Dance and Angela (Trip-Hop Version)'
5. Hurray For The Riff Raff - 'Small Town Heroes'

Side B:
1. Snoop Dogg - 'I Love My Momma'
2. Alison Krauss & Robert Plant - 'Through The Morning, Through The Night'
3. Emily Wells - 'Mama's Gonna Give You Love'

Side C:
1. Engelbert Humperdinck - 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You'
2. Alexandra Streliski - 'Concerto in D Minor (After Alessandro Marcello), BWV 974: II. Adagio'
3. Willie Dixon - 'The Little Red Rooster'

Side D:
1. Hurray for the Riff Raff - 'Pa’lante'
2. The Acid - 'Tumbling Lights'
3. Sylvan Esso - 'Come Down'

This Record Store Day 2019 2LP edition of the soundtrack makes its vinyl debut today and I have to say that hearing the soundtrack on such a musical format is as beautiful as one could ever hope it would be.

But wait for things can only get better for this delightful 2LP vinyl set is not only super limited to just 1500 copies, but is also created as an exclusive green swirl edition!

As for the album itself, well, the stand out point to note is that with the show having quite a few Led Zeppelin syncs within it, and with the band being notoriously selective about licensing its songs, it’s very noteworthy that Jimmy Page and company are even featured - although, funnily enough, not actually here on the soundtrack.

Containing 14 tracks @ 49 minutes in total (whereas the show itself featured more than 100 songs), this captivating album opens with Franz Waxman's 'Dance and Angela' (which plays over the opening credits).

It's a haunting piece of free flowing '30s dancefloor gentle twirling of dance partners, but weirdly, as I've since come to learn, it also serves as the only semblance between the HBO series and this musical accompaniment.

Next up we have the low-fi R&B rap 'Cupcake Kitty Curls' (ft. The Rooster Incorporated) from Mark Batson which is followed in turn by both Jeffrey Brodsky's highly evocative EDM-lite 'Glance Backwards (Dance and Angela Jean-Phi Gonclaves Remix)' and the Twin Peaksesque 'Dance and Angela (Trip-Hop Version)' from Jean-Phi Goncalves.

Hurray For The Riff Raff bring Side A to a close with their lo-fi acoustic country cut 'Small Town Heroes' and Side B begins with the heartfelt 'I Love My Momma' from a Gangsta-less Snoop Dogg.

The breathtakingly beautiful Alison Krauss & Robert Plant track (of the Gene Clark classic) 'Through The Morning, Through The Night' is next and Emily Wells's brilliant, stirring 'Mama's Gonna Give You Love' wraps up this side neatly.

Side C on the second vinyl opens with Engelbert Humperdinck's classic 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You' and that's backed by the haunting piano work of Alexandra Streliski's Bach 'Concerto in D Minor (After Alessandro Marcello), BWV 974: II. Adagio' and then the great Willie Dixon with 'The Little Red Rooster' brings this side to a close.

Side D opens with Hurray for the Riff Raff's survivor anthem 'Pa’lante' (which is actually the show's end credits track), and then the album rounds out with the scarred mental state-buzz of 'Tumbling Lights' (from The Acid) and then the gossamer-vocalized 'Come Down' from Sylvan Esso.

Sadly though, this collection does not include any of the many old French classics that Amy Adams' character's dad plays time and again on his old-fashioned stereo. Hence no 'Les Moulins de Mon Coeur' by Michel LeGrand being the stand out loss here, but that's just my own personal grievance.

Digital Download Purchase Link

Amazon 'Sharp Objects' RSD 2019 2LP Vinyl Purchase Link

Title - 'California'
Artist - Den Of Ashes

For those not in the know, Den of Ashes is the name of singer/songwriter Ash.

The grandson of early country and western performers John & "Texas Peggy" Clemens (The Wyoming Ramblers, circa 1940s-1950's), they shared the stage, and had subsequent friendships with The Carter Family, Johnny Cash, Tex Ritter and Patsy Cline, amongst others.

The just-released Den of Ashes (Starry Eyed Records) - which in turn is the follow-up to his prior 2016 EP, Blackbird) - is a unique and intimate exploration into the human condition where each moody melodic song is about lost moments in time.

1. 'California'
2. 'Silver Dreams'
3. 'Easy Town'
4. 'Hangman'
5. 'Late Night Radio'
6. 'Living In My Dreams'
7. 'Sun In My Eyes'
8. 'Canyon Walls'

As much as the spoken vibe about this album has it, as aforementioned, as a collection of somewhat moody orchestrations, the opening title track defies that by being an upbeat and tour-guide savvy piece about the state itself.

OK, sure, 'Silver Dreams' and 'Easy Town' do both paint pictures of aspirations and venues that have seen better days, but then in 'Hangman' you sense a cheeky, sneaky chink in the albums makeup.

The lush storytelling of 'Late Night Radio' is one of my own personal favorites and that's followed by the more upbeat holding patterns displayed within 'Living In My Dreams.'

The album then comes to a close with a lonely salute to the bright CA sunshine and the western ache of 'Canyon Walls' thereafter.

Grammy-Award winner Lili Haydn also graces this richly authentic new album on violin along with famed pedal steel player Greg Leisz, Dan Rothschild on bass, Alex Alessandroni on piano, and Ash himself on vocals, guitar and harmonica.

Den Of Ashes @ Facebook

Title - Clint Eastwood / Many Moods Of 'The Upsetters'
Artist - The Upsetters

For those not in the know, The Upsetters was the name given to the house band for Jamaican reggae producer Lee "Scratch" Perry.

The name of the band comes from Perry's nickname of Upsetter, after his song 'I Am The Upsetter', a musical dismissal of his former boss Coxsone Dodd.

The Upsetters were originally Gladdy's All-Stars, led by pianist Gladstone Anderson and it was they who originally recorded the international hits 'Live Injection' and 'Return of Django'.

The double A-side release of 'Return of Django' / 'Dollar in the Teeth' actually peaked at #5 in the UK Singles Chart in November 1969.

When other commitments prevented the All Stars from participating another band named The Hippy Boys were recruited to do the subsequent tour in the United Kingdom.

This line-up remained the studio band that is most associated with the name, going on to eventually form the nucleus of Bob Marley's backing band The Wailers.

The band included guitarist Alva Lewis, organist Glen Adams and brothers Aston "Family Man" Barrett and Carlton Barrett, on bass guitar and drums respectively.

Under Lee "Scratch" Perry's direction, the band backed Bob Marley on a full-time basis, especially with his 1969 groundbreaking works Soul Rebels and Soul Revolution.

By 1972 the Barrett brothers had joined The Wailers and Scratch brought in other musicians to replace them.

At that time the main Black Ark Upsetters became Boris Gardiner (bass), Mikey Richards, Sly Dunbar, Benbow Creary (drums), Earl "Chinna" Smith (guitar), Winston Wright (keyboards) and Keith Sterling (keyboards).

Just released via Sanctuary Records / Cherry Red Records UK is a 2CD set that includes two of the most collectable Lee "Scratch" Perry LPs of all time: Clint Eastwood and Many Moods Of 'The Upsetters'.

In 1969, Pama Records issued Clint Eastwood, a 12 track LP comprising a dozen sides from the producer’s recent catalogue, the majority of which had seen issue in the UK over the previous months as 7” singles on the company’s Camel and Punch subsidiary labels.

Disc One: Clint Eastwood
1. 'RETURN OF THE UGLY' – The Upsetters
2. 'FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE' – The Upsetters
3. 'PRISONER OF LOVE' – Dave Barker
4. 'DRY ACID' – Cool Sticky & The Upsetters
6. 'CLINT EASTWOOD' – The Upsetters
7. 'TASTE OF KILLING' – The Upsetters
8. 'SELASSIE' – Reggae Boys
9. 'WHAT IS THIS' – The Reggae Boys
10. 'AIN’T NO LOVE' – The Reggae Boys
11. 'MY MOB' – The Upsetters
12. 'I’VE CAUGHT YOU' – Cool Sticky & The Upsetters
Bonus Tracks
13. 'DOWN IN THE PARK' – The Inspirations
14. 'STRANGE WHISPERINGS' – The West Indians
15. 'HARD TO HANDLE' – Carl Dawkins
16. 'NOT ME' – The Ethiopians
17. 'FACTS OF LIFE' – The Mellotones
18. 'CAN’T GET NO PEACE' – Monty Morris
19. 'FREEDOM TRAIN' – Ernest Wilson
20. 'I’LL BE WAITING' – The Termites
21. 'ANYWAY' – Lloyd Douglas
22. 'LOVE OH LOVE' – The Inspirations
23. 'BROKEN HEART' – Busty Brown
24. 'CUT DOWN ON YOUR SPEED' – The Ethiopians

Kicking things off in style, and as a precursor to the what was to come, the sweet smooth soul reggae vibe of 'Return Of The Ugly' is still such a joyous track to behold.

One of Perry's greatest productions comes next in the form of the rude boy stance 'For A Few Dollars More' and that's backed by both the cool soul slide of 'Prisoner Of Love' (Dave Barker) and the skinhead shuffle of 'Dry Acid' (Cool Sticky & The Upsetters).

The soulful preaching of U Roy's 'Rightful Ruler' is a nice touch as is hearing Perry on cowbells for the title track, to be honest. The suede head styling of 'Taste Of Killing' is next and is followed by one of my own personal favorites, 'Selassie' from The Reggae Boys.

Next up is the brilliant 'What Is This' and the lush 'Ain't No Love' (both from The Reggae Boys), with the original album rounding out with the reggae bounce of 'My Mob' (The Upsetters) and the wicked tune 'I've Caught You' from Cool Sticky & The Upsetters.

The bonus tracks start with 'Down In The Park' (The Inspirations), a track that still sounds vibrant and fresh today, and is then followed by both the ska of 'Strange Whisperings' (The West Indians) and an ace version of 'Hard To Handle' from Carl Dawkins.

The skinhead shuffle is in full effect on 'Not Me' from The Ethiopians and that's backed by addictive highflying spirit of The Mellotones' 'Facts Of Life,' the upbeat 'Can't Get No Peace' (Monty Morris), and both the delicious 'Freedom Train' (Ernest Wilson, although it was actually first recorded by James Carr on Goldwax Records) and the massive The Termites hit 'I’ll Be Waiting.'

This first disc then comes to a close with 'Anyway' from Lloyd Douglas (and was the B-side to David Isaacs' 'Can't Take It Anymore'), the stunning vibes of ''Love Oh Love' (The Inspirations), and then both the soulful preaching of Busty Brown on 'Broken Heart' and the ruff riders vibe on 'Cut Down On Your Speed' from The Ethiopians.

With that aforementioned album proving to be an instant best-seller, Pama needed little incentive to release a second collection of Perry’s work and the following year issued The Many Moods Of 'The Upsetters'; a similarly styled collection, featuring a mix of instrumental and vocal material.

Disc Two: Many Moods Of 'The Upsetters'
1. 'EXRAY VISION' – The Upsetters
2. '(‘TIL) CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE' – David Isaacs
3. 'SOUL STEW' – The Upsetters
4. 'LOW LIGHTS' – The Upsetters
5. 'CLOUD NINE' – Carl Dawkins
6. 'BEWARE FADE' – The Upsetters
7. 'SERIOUS JOKE' – The Upsetters
8. 'GOOSY' – Pat Satchmo
9. 'PROVE IT' – The Upsetters
10. 'BOSS SOCIETY' – Pat Satchmo
11. 'MEAN AND DANGEROUS' – The Upsetters
12. 'GAMES PEOPLE PLAY' – The Upsetters
Bonus Tracks
13. 'HIT ME BACK' – Dave Barker & The Upsetters
14. 'TRIBUTE TO A KING' – Busty Brown
15. 'LENNOX MOOD' – Lennox Brown & Upsetters
16. 'YOU BETRAY ME' – Dave Barker & The Upsetters
17. 'NEVER GET AWAY' – The West Indians
18. 'FEEL THE SPIRIT' – The Upsetters
19. 'SOUL JUICE' – Busty Brown & The Upsetters
20. 'WILL YOU STILL LOVE ME' – Dave Barker & The Upsetters
21. 'RAM YOU HARD' – The Bleechers
22. 'HELLO DOLLY' – Pat Satchmo
23. 'THE RESULT' – The Upsetters
24. 'SHOCKS OF MIGHTY' – Dave Barker & The Upsetters

This second disc begins with the tight and classy 'Exray Vision' from The Upsetters which is backed seamlessly by David Isaacs' big quality tune 'Til I Can't Take It Anymore,' and a soulful organ-enhanced duo from The Upsetters in the form of 'Soul Stew' and 'Low Lights.'

The irie Carl Dawkins pops in with the low funk sound of 'Cloud Nine' with The Upsetters back for another couple adding both 'Beware Fade' and 'Serious Joke' (although I can't stand that constant "clicking" throughout the song, sorry!)

The deep-throated 'Goosy' from Pat Satchmo is up next and is backed by the gentle, yet playful bounce of 'Prove It' (The Upsetters) before Satchmo is back again on 'Boss Society' (complete with a trumpet that sounds like an elephant throughout it!)

The original album then rounds out with two more from The Upsetters in the shape of 'Mean And Dangerous' and the old school steel drums of 'Games People Play.'

The bonus tracks included start off with 'Hit Me Back' from Dave Barker & The Upsetters and that's followed by the laid back testifying ska of 'Tribute To A King' (Busty Brown), the sax-heavy beauty 'Lennox Mood' from Lennox Brown & Upsetters (the B-side of The Upsetters' 'Clint Eastwood'), and then the dancefloor swagger of 'You Betray Me' from Dave Barker & The Upsetters.

As we head into the final curve we get the rapid reggae vibe of 'Never Get Away' from The West Indians, with a trio following along thereafter from The Upsetters in the form of the playful horn bounce of 'Feel The Spirit,' the feisty chant of 'Soul Juice' (with Busty Brown), and then 'Wil You Still Love Me' (with Dave Barker).

The second disc then comes to a close with the boss groove of 'Ram You Hard' from The Bleechers, the immense 'Hello Dolly' from Pat Satchmo (which is a turnabout take on what you expect it to be!), the window's down on a hot summer's day vibe of 'The Result', and then finally the loud and proud 'Shocks Of Mighty' from Dave Barker & The Upsetters.

Both of these best-selling albums feature on this must-have 2CD set that also includes all of the producer’s work released in the UK by Pama and Doctor Bird Records between 1969 and early 1970 – their number including a handful of tracks previously unavailable on CD.

This is an essential purchase for all fans of the musical genius that is Lee "Scratch" Perry and followers of the immensely popular boss reggae sound.

Official CD Purchase Link

Lee "Scratch" Perry @ Facebook

Title - 'Red Hot' [Vinyl LP]
Artist - Lola Bates

For those not in the know, 17 year-old Lola Bates is a crazy talented American singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, from Los Angeles.

She is also a classically trained pianist, and has performed works by Chopin, Rachmaninov, Debussy, and many others, to audiences at myriad events; including semi-annual recitals in a college environment at UCLA since the age of five.

While continuing her classical piano studies, Bates joined local School of Rock Show Band at the age of twelve, to hone her skills as a musician and performer.

An undeniable curiosity and passion for music led Lola to study voice, electric bass, guitar, and percussion – all of which she performs on her debut album, Red Hot (out now via Human Made Records).

Leading up to the album debut and working entirely on her own, Bates wrote the music, lyrics and recorded demos for this album via a collaboration with her father, composer/producer Tyler Bates and Grammy-winning engineer/producer/mixer Robert Carranza.

Furthermore, it was a familiar experience in this setting as the young Bates was tasked at age 12 to record piano work on the Marvel franchise film 'Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol.1' and again in 2017 recorded her piano work for 'Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2' at Abbey Road Studios in London with the London Symphony Orchestra!

Side A:
1. 'Still a Mess'
2. 'Hey Hey Hey'
3. 'Lost in the City'
4. 'I'm Gonna Lose You'

Side B:
5. 'Red Hot'
6. 'The F**k You Song'
7. 'That's Life'
8. 'The Day That I Walked'

The debut album, which arrived here as a wondrous vinyl LP (although they missed a trick by not producing it in red, me thinks!), once placed on the turntable (which, come on now, is the only way to listen to music) begins with the mid tempo countrified Sheryl Crowesque swagger of 'Still a Mess' and backs that up with the more frenetically paced 'Hey Hey Hey.'

With both those tracks having featured in the pilot episode of USA network’s 'The Purge' TV series, next up is one of my own personal favorites here on this quite spectacular and evoking new album, the late night underground blues/jazz piano bar vibe of 'Lost in the City' (featuring Frank Macchia on Sax).

The stunningly haunting ballad 'I'm Gonna Lose You' is next and is followed by the raucous title track 'Red Hot' (featuring David Rallicke on Trombone). The storytelling of a love gone horribly wrong is brought forth within 'The F**k You Song' (featuring Rallicke on sax and Blake Cooper on Tuba) with the joyful road trip, sun shining, windows down 'That's Life' along next (featuring Rallicke on Sax, Michael Rozon on Pedal Steel, and her father, Tyler on Banjo).

Rounding out this quite excellent smorgasbord of musical thoughts, wishes, hopes, ambitions and forthright opinions is the near six minute long, and goose bump-inducing piano ballad 'The Day That I Walked.'

Once again featuring Rallicke on Sax and Scott Seiver on Drums, it's most definitely a track that will lyrically resonate with you long after it has finished playing, trust me.

Lola Bates @ Facebook

'Red Hot' Music Video

'Still a Mess' Music Video

'Lost in the City' Music Video

Title - 'In the End'
Artist - The Cranberries

For those not in the know, The Cranberries is an Irish rock band formed in Limerick, Ireland in 1989 by lead singer Niall Quinn, guitarist Noel Hogan, bassist Mike Hogan, and drummer Fergal Lawler; although Quinn was replaced as lead singer by Dolores O'Riordan in 1990.

The band officially classify themselves as an alternative rock group, but incorporate aspects of indie pop, post-punk, Irish folk, and pop rock into their sound.

The Cranberries rose to international fame in the 1990s with their debut album, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?, which became a commercial success.

The band has sold over 40 million records worldwide and achieved five top 20 albums on the Billboard 200 chart (Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?; No Need to Argue, To the Faithful Departed, Bury the Hatchet, and Stars: The Best of 1992-2002) and eight top 20 singles on the Modern Rock Tracks chart ('Linger', 'Dreams', 'Zombie', 'Ode to My Family', 'Ridiculous Thoughts', 'Salvation', 'Free to Decide', and 'Promises').

In early 2009, after a six-year hiatus, the Cranberries reunited and began a North American tour, followed by shows in Latin America and Europe. The band then recorded their sixth album Roses in May 2011 and released it in February 2012.

Something Else, an album covering earlier songs together with the Irish Chamber Orchestra, was released in April 2017.

Sadly, on January 15th 2018, lead singer Dolores O'Riordan passed away in a London hotel room having been there for a recording session.

The Cranberries then confirmed in late September 2018 that they will not be continuing as a band and that they would release their final album, the upcoming In the End and disband immediately thereafter.

As Noel Hogan stated: “The Cranberries was the four of us. We don’t want to do this without Dolores. So we’re going to leave it after this.”

1. 'All Over Now'
2. 'Lost'
3. 'Wake Me When It's Over'
4. 'A Place I Know'
5. 'Catch Me If You Can'
6. 'Got It'
7. 'Illusion'
8. 'Crazy Heart'
9. 'Summer Song'
10. 'The Pressure'
11. 'In the End'

This quite wonderful, heartfelt and poignant 8th and final album from The Cranberries, and one once again produced by Stephen Street, kicks off with The Cure-esque swirly power pop 'All Over Now' (which must have also been a contender for the album title) and backs that up with both the anguish of 'Lost' and the quite brilliantly paced 'Wake Me When It's Over' ("Trying to forget, Something that you know. It hasn't killed you yet, But you cannot let it go".)

Another poignant reminder of just how good, how crisp, how devoted to her homeland Dolores' voice truly was is up next in 'A Place I Know,' and that's followed by the wondrously fluid Celtic melodies of the cry for help within 'Catch Me If You Can' and then song about coping, 'Got It.'

The signature vocals on both 'Illusion' and 'Crazy Heart' are so true to the core Cranberries tracks that they could easily have been recorded and sung back in the mid-'90s, with the forewarning of the fickleness of life on 'Summer Song' one of my own personal favorites here.

That all said, I think that the most poignant of tracks here on this quite magnificent has to be, without a shadow of a doubt, 'The Pressure.' In lyrics that I could swear rove between "When I'm feeling the pressure you make me feel so much better" and "When I'm feeling depression you make me feel so much better", it's as if Dolores is laying down her own personal mantra within the lyrics.

The album then comes to a close with more of sensitivity through poetry, her wonderful and unique voice entering our souls within the title track, 'In the End.'

“After Dolores’ devastating and unexpected passing in January 2018, we took some time out and put all plans on hold,” bandmates Noel and Mike Hogan and Fergal Lawler have said. "As time passed, we began to think about how we might best honor our close friend and bandmate."

"This was a very painful process. We remembered how Dolores had been so energized by the prospect of making this record and getting back out on the road to play the songs live, and realized that the most meaningful thing to do was to finish the album we had started with her.”

Fittingly, Dolores' mother, Eileen has since said that, and I quote, "I can't think of a more fitting way to commemorate the first anniversary of Dolores' passing and to celebrate her life than to announce to the world the release of her final album with the band."

Amen, Eileen. Amen.

Rest in Peace, Dolores.

Amazon CD Purchase Link