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Cherry Pop

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.

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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