31 March 2014

Alternative Rock Review: Afghan Whigs-Do to the Beast

Release Date: April 15, 2014
Label: Sub Pop

It’s been 16 years, but Cincinnati’s Afghan Whigs are back with a new album, Do to the Beast. The band returns to previous label Sub Pop for the album that will be released on April 15th.

For those of you that never got into the Whigs before, or missed them entirely, I must recommend you give them a listen. When buzz about them began in the 90’s they were a band on a Seattle-based label during the grunge era. However, they were most certainly not a grunge band and such factors likely didn’t help the band reach a bigger audience despite releasing multiple excellent albums.

What made the Afghan Whigs different than other bands at the time was the influence of soul on their rock sound. It worked in large part because of singer/rhythm guitarist Greg Dulli’s vocals and lyrics full of relationships gone bad and angst. He had a swagger and arrogance that few could pull off when trying similar styles. The result led to much critical acclaim and major label deals, but not enough popularity. The band decided to call it quits in 2001, but started playing shows about a decade later and eventually deciding to record Do to the Beast.

Do to the Beast opens with “Parked Outside,” and it comes at you heavy and dirty, which I think is a great way to open your first album in years. It does a great job of showing that the Afghan Whigs can still be what they were the last time we heard them. They do branch out some though. The first single, “Algiers,” has a country feel to it and “Matmaros” and “The Lottery” incorporate more modern production elements. Few bands seem to close albums as well as Afghan Whigs, and “These Sticks” continues that tradition.

For fans old and new I think the results on Do to the Beast are great. There is a mix of classic Afghan Whigs, yet still some promising progress that allows one to hope this won’t be the last we hear from them. For new fans you get a good album that hopefully makes you want to check out the band’s back catalog. There are several bands getting back together these days and the years have not been kind to their new material or shows. The Afghan Whigs are not one of these bands and Do to the Beast makes this clear.

4.5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Parked Outside, Algiers, Royal Cream

Kevin Kozel

March 28, 2014

Tracks:
01. Parked Outside
02. Matamoros
03. It Kills
04. Algiers
05. Lost in the Woods
06. The Lottery
07.Can Rova
08.Royal Cream
09. I Am Fire
10. These Sticks

Review Provided By Write A Music Review


30 March 2014

Hard Rock Review: D-A-D 30 - Years 30 Hits: The Best of D-A-D 1984-2014

Release Date:March 18, 2014
Label: AFM Records
Website


Longevity is something that is noteworthy, especially in the music business where fads come and go and audiences can be fickle. For a band to last for decades is an achievement in itself, but to continue to produce quality music year after year is something else. It is a testament to the bond and dedication between the members and, of course, to their talent as musicians.  


Formed in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1984, D-A-D has been producing their brand of rock music for 30 years. Originally known as Disneyland After Dark, they were forced to change their name after being threatened with a lawsuit from the Disney Company. The band consists of Jesper Binzer (vocals, guitar), Stig Pedersen (bass, vocals), Jacob Binzer (guitar), and Laust Sonne (drums). Impressively, they have had only one line-up change in their history together.   

30 Years 30 Hits is a two disc compilation album that spans from 1986’s Call of the Wild to 2011’s DIC·NII·LAN·DAFT·ERD·ARK. The selections of songs are just phenomenal.  From the good-naturedly defiance of “I Won’t Cut My Hair” to the catchiness of “Black Crickets” to the head banging “Jihad,” these songs really are the best of the best of D-A-D.  And no collection is complete without the song that brought them into the international spotlight and bringing the type of attention that caused their name change, the infectious “Sleeping My Day Away.”  It is precisely the type of song that will run through your head for days. 

From the opening note, “Marlboro Man” is hard rock at its finest.  Its uncompromising attitude, blistering guitar, and roaring drums make for one of the most memorable songs on the album.  Its visceral outro makes for one helluva impression.  This song demands to be played at full volume.  The narrative “Call of the Wild” takes things in a different direction.  The infectious refrain is undeniably pleasing to the ear in this dark tale. The cheekiness of “Point of View” shows of the humorous side of D-A-D’s lyrics and “Reconstructed” finds them at their heaviest.

The second CD opens up just as strong with the rocking “Naked (But Still Strippin’).”  Overall, the second part pretty much matches the first in quality; though there are a few songs I do not much care for, such as the forgettable “Home Alone 4,” sounding too much like any other 90’s soft rock, and the overly sentimental “Soft Dogs.” The bitter sweetness is done better on “Empty Heads” and “Hate to Say I Told You So.” Some of the highlights include “Nineteenhundredandyesterday,” which strikes a nice balance between being emotional and not too sappy, and the energetic, punk sounding “Evil Twin.” D-A-D are at their hard rock best on such songs as “Everything Glows,”  “Scare Yourself,” and “A New Age Moving In.”


You are certainly going to get your money’s worth with D-A-D’s 30 Years 30 Hits30 Years 30 Hits is one compilation that is full of hard rock gems.  The timelessness of these songs and the fact that they are just as good as they were years ago, is a true mark of D-A-D’s musical skill. It is a shame that they never broke out bigger internationally, because they have made some great music. Here’s to one of rock’s finest underappreciated bands.

4.5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Malboro Man, Call of the Wild, Sleeping My Day Away, Naked (But Still Strippin’), Ninteenhunredandyesterday

Brian McKinnon

March 30, 2014

Tracks:
01.Marlboro Man
02.Call of the Wild
03.Riding with Sue
04.It’s After Dark
05.0Isn’t That Wild
06.I Won’t Cut My Hair
07.Black Crickets
08.Sleeping My Day Away
09.Jihad
10.Point of View
11.Girl Nation
12.Bad Craziness
13.Grow or Pay
14.Laugh and a Half
15.Reconstructed
16.Naked (But Still Strippin’)
17.Empty Heads
18.Home Alone 4
19.Hate to Say I Told You So
20.Everything Glows
21.Nineteenhundredandyesterday
22.Something Good
23.Evil Twin
24.Soft Dogs
25.Scare Yourself
26.Lawrence of Suburbia
27.Monster of Philosophy
28.A New Age Moving In
29.I Want What She’s Got
30.We All Fall Down


Review Provided By Write A Music Review
 

29 March 2014

Pop Review: Roxanna-Hello, Close Your Eyes

Release Date: March 11, 2014, (Hello) and February 25, 2014 (Close Your Eyes)
Label: Roxart, Inc.

An artist reminiscent of Gloria Estefan and Celine Dion, Roxanna brings her own brand of soulful song to the table with her two new singles Close Your Eyes and Hello. These solo releases are paving the way for her first full length album, Exotica. Due out after two years of work, the artist has much to be proud of. Her work with industry leaders is a testament to her devotion to her craft. 

After becoming an RN in Toronto, Roxanna saw firsthand how music can make a difference as she encountered a man with cancer. Each day she sang to him. With every lilting turn of phrase and soaring vocalization, she healed him and he was released from the hospital, much to the joy of his family. That was all Roxanna needed as proof and she has since worked to share her love of song with those in need. 

“Close Your Eyes” is a song that captures the dark night of the soul. The world closes in and the days begin to run from one to the next. Luscious vocals roll over you as the piano sequences float by, followed by percussion elements and a myriad of multi-instrumentation. Roxanna evokes emotion and dredges up the gray skies and shows the breakthrough of light and the silver lining revealed within the storm. She sings of hope, walking by the side of God and the inner strength of the human heart. The vocals and instruments meld effortlessly into a blissful audible experience that makes me want to hear what else this artist has up her sleeve. Co-written by Mark Portmann and Lindy Robbins (Celine Dion, Backstreet Boys, Nick Lachey) this song reaches for the sky and holds its own. 
 
“Hello” is a cover song we have heard before. In this version, a jazzy beginning is followed by the sultry smoke of Roxanna’s voice. The eternal longing of the soul moves against elements of saxophone and a bevy of percussive textures hammering out a beat to tap your foot to. This song although familiar, crafts its own presence. 

Roxanna uses her skill as a singer to heal and bring grace to those around her. Whether as a nurse healing the body or a vocal goddess healing the mind and spirit, I am definitely waiting with baited breath for the full length album to hit the shelves. The earthy music captured in the two songs alone is captivating. The new album is produced by Mark Portmann (Celine Dion, Josh Groban, Barbra Streisand, Annie Lennox and Christina Aguilera). With Middle Eastern, Spanish and flamenco influences, Exotica is going to be amazing.

4/5 Stars

Dana Wright

March 29, 2014

Review Provided By Write a Music Review

28 March 2014

Underrated Bands: Black Sun Ensemble

Black Sun Ensemble has been making great music for over three decades now. They are perhaps one of the most underrated bands in the world! Listen to their music and let them know they are appreciated!

27 March 2014

Concert Review: Rick Springfield Stripped Down…Well Almost


Rick Springfield In Concert at the Colonial Theater
Pittsfield, Mass.- March 26, 2014


On a frigid and blustery evening Rick Springfield rolled into the Berkshires to entertain us at the beautiful Colonial Theater. Things were about to warm up very shortly though.

Every time I step into that venue I feel immense appreciation for its restoration. It is one of the best decisions Pittsfield has ever made. Bringing in acts like Springfield is one of the many joys of having the theater available to the local audience. People do come from all over for the shows however, last night there were folks from Boston, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

As I was walking into the theater I was seeing a lot women filing in. Could this 80s heartthrob still have the following of females he did back then? Probably not but those girls that followed him back then are now in mid-life and there was a lot of them there screaming and hooting over this legendary pop icon. At this point I was asking myself if I should be attending. That question was answered after Springfield’s first number and consequently throughout his entire performance. I have a newfound respect for his abilities, particularly with the guitar playing.

This was all Rick and his guitars and an Apple laptop, or as he put it, his band in a box. This was not an all-acoustic show as he did pull out the electric six-string on several occasions. As we found out soon enough the addition of the backing tracks accentuated his performance greatly. This was not a bunch of sliced up tracks from previous albums or sampling mind you, it was his recordings especially made for the show. He made sure we were aware of that factor. It did make a difference and filled in some gaps that a full complement of players would have provided. It was an impressive display of talent anyway you look at it and the man can sing just as well as he did when his popularity soared in the early 80s. It is hard to believe he is 66 years old and looks so fit and can still sing so strongly. These things don’t happen by chance; certainly a lot of hard work is involved to maintain a healthy appearance and strong vocals at his age. It worked for him last night. 

As the saying goes, every song has a story behind it somehow and Springfield let us in on how his songs were developed. This part of the show made every song an adventure. After shedding light upon his songs it made you feel you knew him personally and hence there was more emotional attachment involved while listening. The most touching part of the evening was when he told us about his father dying and how it took him three years to find the words to write a song about him. He explained how when his father was dying that he would sit in a blue recliner and watch cricket all day long. Springfield nearly was in tears as he explained the essence of the song “My Father’s Chair.” It was a beautiful thing to watch such heartfelt artistry on display. Of course he would end the night with his mega hit “Jessie’s Girl,” much to the delight of the women (who suddenly became screaming tweens again) in attendance.

There is a lot of audience interaction with his stripped down version of his recorded works and he even has a Q & A session with the audience when he is done playing. The questions where all sent in prior to the show via email and then answered when he finished his last number and took a quick break before coming back out on stage.

Rick Springfield is an accomplished guitar player, vocalist, and story teller and I would highly recommend catching one of his shows if you can.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-Founder Write A Music Review

March 27, 2014


Manfred Mann's Earth Band Vocal Legend Chris Thompson Releases Eagerly Awaited New CD 'Toys & Dishes' – March 17, 2014


London, UK - Esoteric Antenna is pleased to announce the release of the new album by CHRIS THOMPSON. Known for his work as the vocalist and guitarist on many hits with Manfred Mann's Earth Band, including “Blinded By The Light”, “For You” and “The Mighty Quinn”, as well as featured on the classic Jeff Wayne concept album 'War of the Worlds', Chris is also a noted songwriter (penning among other songs the smash hit “You’re the Voice” for John Farnham). His new studio album, 'Toys & Dishes', is his first in over ten years and draws on all the musical elements that make Chris's songs and voice so instantly recognizable.

Of his new album, Chris reflects; “I'm very proud of the result. The songs really mean a great deal to me, mostly inspired by my daily life, a couple of forays into the past and a story or two! Hopefully they’re accessible to both my very loyal fans and to everybody struggling to find time and money to do what they really want to with the people they love.”

'Toys & Dishes' is a must have for all fans of legendary Chris Thompson!

Chris Thompson 'Toys & Dishes' album preview video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SblkQO2L2kU

Track Listing
  1. Million Dollar Wonder Hit
  2. Millie Christine
  3. Eddie Wants to Rock
  4. Dark Side Interlude
  5. Dark Side
  6. Hey You!
  7. Dream Away Little Girl
  8. You're the One I Love
  9. Sad Song Wishes (One Moment)
  10. Talk to Me
  11. We Run
  12. Woe is Me
To purchase Chris Thompson's 'Toys & Dishes': http://www.cherryred.co.uk/shopexd.asp?id=4552

For further information please contact: esotericarts@btconnect.com

Chris Thompson official website: http://www.christhompson-central.com/

Press inquiries: Glass Onyon PR, PH: 828-350-8158 (USA), glassonyonpr@gmail.com

26 March 2014

PledgeMusic and Cleopatra Records Join Forces to Re-issue Van Morrison's The Complete 1967 Bang Sessions


The Double LP Limited Pressing in a Velvet Cover on Red Splatter Vinyl includes the colossal hit “Brown Eyed Girl”

PledgeMusic, the leading direct-to-fan company and Cleopatra Records, an independent L.A. based record label with an eclectic roster of artists, have announced a pre-order for the re-issue of the legendary album of Van Morrison, The Complete Bang Sessions. Cleopatra Records is pressing a strictly limited edition of 1,000 numbered copies of this 180 gram Red & Black Spatter vinyl in a luxurious black velvet gatefold cover, an exclusive for fans only available through PledgeMusic’s platform.

Look up the phrase “blue-eyed soul” in the dictionary and there you will find a picture of Van Morrison. But in 1967 Van Morrison was finished with the record industry, after disbanding Them and exiling himself away in Belfast. Producer Bert Berns managed to convince Van Morrison to return to the states and record for Bang. It was these early sessions which would mark the beginning of an incredibly successful career, beginning with the colossal hit “Brown Eyed Girl”. Every fan who pledges support will receive the highly collectible vinyl for The Complete Bang Sessions. Pledge at http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/vanmorrison

Jayce Varden, President, North America at PledgeMusic, commented: “Van Morrison is one of the most talented artists of our time and PledgeMusic is thrilled to partner with Cleopatra Records to give his fans the rare chance to get their hands on this exclusive deluxe packaged item.”

Matt Green, Vice President of Acquisitions at Cleopatra Records added, “Cleopatra Records is proud to present Van Morrison’s smashing solo debut in a beautiful package & pressing, which a work of this caliber deserves.”

PledgeMusic is the world's leading online, direct-to-fan music platform, offering artists a unique way to engage their fans in the music making experience whilst interacting with PledgeMusic's global community of music fans. Since its inception in 2009, PledgeMusic has worked with artists and labels to deliver high impact campaigns that provide exclusive engagement, incentives and content for music fans as well as new commercial benefits and revenue streams for artists and music labels.

PledgeMusic's platform has generated chart topping albums worldwide. Successful campaigns have included Slash, The Libertines, Bring Me The Horizon, Ginger Wildheart, Ben Folds Five, Killing Joke, Emmy The Great and Rachel Yamagata amongst others. www.pledgemusic.com

http://bit.ly/PQkJpr

Press inquiries:
Glass Onyon PR
PH: 828-350-8158
glassonyonpr@gmail.com

CLEOPATRA RECORDS, Inc.
11041 Santa Monica Blvd #703
Los Angeles CA 90025
www.CleopatraRecords.com

Blues Review: Johnny Winter-True To The Blues - The Johnny Winter Story (Box Set)

Release Date: February 25, 2014
Label: Legacy

Johnny Winter has been True To The Blues for a lifetime. Blues rock fans have been the fortunate recipient of his burning desire to play that style of music for five decades.

True To The Blues - The Johnny Winter Story is 4-disc box set that does a nice job of encapsulating an amazing career. Winter pushed the limits of his capabilities and life itself and has somehow defied all odds to survive artistically and in a literal sense. He always comes out the other side a success. Now 70 years old and still burning the flame of the blues, his is truly a miracle of music. This Winter should have been in a box a long time ago due to his drug abuse but here we are celebrating his 70th birthday this year and his incredible contribution to the blues with a different type of box.

This definitive box set offers a booklet with quotes from music legends regarding Winter and several pictures during the course of his career. This is the first career spanning box set for Winter and it makes you wonder what took so long? There are two previously unreleased tracks included to sweeten the pie. “Eyesight to the Blind” and “Johnny Winter’s Intro “ are both culled from the Live At The Atlanta Pop show. This is a nice set however it think it could have been more complete if a DVD of interviews and live performances over Winter’s career were included. For pure musical enjoyment it gets and A+.

Listening to these four discs reminded once again who the king of the white boy blues is. His guitar playing is simply on fire and his vocals are one of the most recognizable in recorded music. His strong rock voice has been one of the greatest live and in the studio. He is revered by his peers and music fans alike around the world.

I have seen Johnny live twice and can tell you he still has that mojo workin’ without a doubt. Having had the pleasure to meet him as well was something I can never forget. The music is what makes the man not the man that makes the music and I would be willing to bet the humble Mr. Winter would agree.

With so many tracks to choose from I found it difficult to focus on anyone in particular. All are notable and stand alone as great accomplishments from where this listener sits. To sit and listen to this entire set is a wonderful experience for any blues fan or music fan interested in rediscovering or discovering one of the all-time great guitar slingers. This is the quintessential blues from one of the greatest players of our time. Besides Clapton, Beck, Page and all the others that took blues rock to another level, Johnny Winter stands alone as one of the unique and most respected purveyors of the genre. True To The Blues is your ticket to one of the greatest shows on earth.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: ALL

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-Write A Music Review Founder

March 26, 2014

Review Provided By Write A Music Review

25 March 2014

Prog Stream: Edison's Children - The Final Breath Before November

Progressive Rock Review: Panic Room-Incarnate

Release Date: 18thMarch 2014
Label: Firefly Music

Incarnate is the 4th album from the Welsh Band, Panic Room, since their formation back in 2007. The band was formed by former members of the band Karnataka and released the debut album, Visionary Position in 2008, followed at regular intervals by Satellite (2010), Skin(2012) and now Incarnate (2014).

The best description of the music of Panic Room is probably under the umbrella of crossover prog or a female fronted progressively influenced band in the vein of Magenta and The Reasoning.

Panic Room is currently a 4 piece band, comprising Jonathan Edwards (keyboards), Gavin Griffiths (drums), Anne Marie Helder (vocals, flute, guitars, keyboards) and Yatim Halimi (bass), although for the recording of the album, Incarnate, Adam O’Sullivan was responsible for the lead guitar role.

Incarnate is a 10 track album, clocking in at around the 61 minute mark with the penultimate track, “Close The Door,” the shortest on offer at 5:10 minutes and track 6, “Into Temptation” being the longest, running on to just under 8 minutes (7:55).

The opening track, “Velocity” (5:17) has a memorable spiraling guitar riff by the “new boy” Adam, leading into Anne Marie’s remarkable vocals while being ably supported by the power unit of the band. The keyboards are in there as well, but remain a step back, neatly behind the voice. All in all, this is a terrific starter to the new album with an instantly accessible “hook” that quickly embeds in your mind.

The next few tracks, “Start The Sound” (5:12), “Incarnate” (7:37), “Nothing New” (6:17) and “Waterfall” (5:30) have a distinctly different sound with a more “stripped back” approach, giving a little nod in the direction of the more acoustic styled side project, Luna Rossa. They are much more keyboard/vocal led which also, because of the “space” available in the sound, allows the band members to take the spotlight from time to time. The vocals are at times, emotive, powerful and also, slightly brittle, fitting the tracks like a glove.

“Into Temptation” (7:55) is an amazingly atmospheric track with Adam getting in a few tasty runs early in the proceedings and Anne Marie employing “breathy” vocals initially. The track gently moves into the “slow burner” territory with some unobtrusive keyboards supplementing the voice. The drums and bass keep the track motoring along with a little subdued urgency and within this track there is a terrifically catchy chorus. Just prior to the 5 minute mark, there is a sublime passage, keyboard led, which is almost spine-chilling and Adam’s guitar then edges into the picture before Anne Marie resurfaces with another chorus. This would certainly be my choice of track for the “instant” track on the album, and it certainly seems to end long before its 7:55 minutes has passed.

A real jazzy track “All That We Are” (5:40) follows, and although musically it is faultless, I felt that it was just too much of a contrast, but things return to “normal” with “Searching” (5:52) and “Close The Door” (5:10), both very different tracks, but distinctly Panic Room.

The finale to the album Incarnate, “Dust” (7:15), is another very atmospheric chunk of music with a long slow introduction and those “breathy” vocals by Anne Marie. The overall feeling is of a dark, brooding piece of music that flows back and forth, constantly shifting with instruments taking the lead and then stepping back again. The repeated passages seem to echo in your mind even after the track has ceased. This is a very powerful track, constantly simmering but being kept strictly in check. “Dust” is a superb final track to a thoroughly enjoyable album.

Incarnate is a superbly constructed album with a variety of soundscapes generated by a tightly knit group of musicians with one aim in their sights and that is to produce music of the highest quality. Another 2014 release to get both stickers “One to Buy” and “The Experience will last Forever,” and I don’t think that there was any doubt of that from the very first play. The advice is to get out there, hunt down a copy, settle into a comfortable seat and listen to some simply stunning music.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Velocity, Incarnate, Into Temptation

Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson-Sr. Reviewer Prog Rock Music Talk

March 25, 2014

Tracks:
Velocity
Start The Sound
Incarnate
Nothing New
Waterfall
Into Temptation
All That We Are
Searching
Close The Door
Dust
 


Gear Reviews: Sound like The Edge for Under $1000


PictureIn light of the new The Edge section in Gear Guides, I think it is appropriate to write an article about sounding like Edge on a budget. We'll set the budget at $1000, and I'll show you that it is pretty easy to get his core sound with a relatively small budget. Granted, we won't be able to cover everything, because the amount of required pedals alone would surpass $1000, but the following rig is one that I have personally used and have had great success with.

Alternative Hip Hop Review: Young Fathers-Dead

Release Date: February 4, 2014
Label: Anticon

Young Fathers is a group that isn’t the easiest to label. I mean this in a very good way. What I most often see them labeled as is “Alternative Hip-Hop” so I guess we will go with that, but they remind me of artists like Tricky/Massive Attack, TV on the Radio, and Shabazz Palaces, just to name a few. They have released a couple of EPs up to this point, 2011’s Tape One and 2013’s Tape Two, and now release a full-length, Dead.

Part of what makes Young Fathers so interesting lies in their diversity. The trio is based in Edinburgh, but only ‘G’ Hasting has spent all of his years in Scotland. Alloysious Massaquoi is Liberian, while Kayus Bankole has Nigerian parents and spent several years in both the U.S. and Nigeria before returning to Edinburgh. The uniqueness of its members clearly has influenced Young Fathers sound and makes them distinctive because of it. While hip-hop tends to be the easiest way to define the group, elements of trip-hop, indie rock, reggae, electronic, and African rhythms all contribute to their songs. Listening to the two singles from Dead, “Low” and “Get Up” it’s easy to notice that there is something different about what Young Fathers are bringing to the table. Amidst all of these styles the band still finds ways to add catchy lyrics and choruses.

For music lovers, Young Fathers is definitely worth checking out. Hip-hop lovers may feel that they are not hip-hop enough, though those that dislike hip-hop may find that they are still very much a hip-hop band. Their uniqueness makes them very interesting for those looking for something different, but for the less adventurous there very well may be too many influences in one place. These are certainly not issues for me as I find Dead to be a fascinating album and Young Fathers a group full of intriguing possibilities for years to come.

4.5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Low, Get Up, I’ve Arrived

Kevin Kozel

March 24, 2014

Review Provided By Write A Music Review

Tracks: 
01. No Way
02. Low
03. Just Another Bullet
04. War
05. Get Up
06. Dip
07. Paying
08. Mmmh Mmmh
09. Hangman
10. Am I Not Your Boy
11. I’ve Arrived


24 March 2014

UK Prog Legends Curved Air Featuring Sonja Kristina Release Eagerly Anticipated New CD 'North Star'


“CURVED AIR, with a real band attitude and a zest for life; this is a band you want to see live for the sheer artistry of how to deliver the musical goods.”- Lee Dorian, Classic Rock

London, UK – Much to the anticipation of press and music fans worldwide, UK progressive rock legends Curved Air, featuring iconic vocalist Sonja Kristina, released a new CD 'North Star' via Cherry Red Records on March 17, 2014! 'North Star' is the band's first album featuring new studio material since 1976! The full-length CD features a mixture of re-recordings, cover songs and seven new original compositions, all housed in a lavish digi-pack.

Says Sonja, “I am proud to release into the world Curved Air's 'North Star'. The North Star is the fixed point in the sky about which all the stars seen from the Northern Hemisphere rotate. A star linked to the celestial magnetic energies of the North Pole. Following its light, the lost, the wanderer, the explorer and the warrior have been guided throughout time. The North Star helps us know where we are and where we are going. Curved Air's album 'North Star' is born of the musicianship and dedication of this brilliant incarnation of Curved Air - renowned for the audience's rapturous response to their concerts. The North Star album material reflects on humanity, love, solutions , perspectives and staying human through changing times and revolutions, virtual lives and delicate attractions - love and shamanic sub atomic worlds.”

Curved Air, originally formed in 1969, is a groundbreaking progressive art-rock band renowned for their showmanship. Each member pushed the boundaries of possibilities for rock music performance. Vocalist Sonja Kristina won the hearts of a generation of music lovers and was voted top British Female Vocalist of the 1970's whilst the three top twenty albums that this lineup released are regarded as classics.

Breaking through from the underground scene into top of the early '70s album charts, Curved Air's musicians hailed from mixed artistic backgrounds, including classic, folk and electronic sound. The resulting sound of the band is a mixture of progressive rock, folk rock and fusion with classical elements. Along with High Tide and East of Eden, Curved Air was one of the first rock bands after It's a Beautiful Day and The United States of America to feature a violin. Considered (according to AllMusic) “one of the most dramatically accomplished of all the bands lumped into Britain's late-'60s prog explosion, 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', which reached number 4 in the UK. Numerous band splits and reformations have occurred since then but the current line-up of Sonja Kristina, Florian Pilkington-Miksa, Chris Harris, Robert Norton and Paul Sax have been together since 2009”. With classic era guitarist Kirby Gregory rejoining the band in 2013.

Curved Air's music was also described as “'Art Rock', the quasi classical imprints of Terry Riley hooked onto beautiful and demonic violin combined with electronic adventurous synths and interwoven with brilliant guitar wizardry mesmerisingly embroidered by the subliminal and exotic presence of a unique girl lead singer Sonja Kristina”. Though progressive music pioneers they were hailed as Pop Stars when the sultry “Back Street Luv” was a Top 5 hit in 1971.

Sonja Kristina, who topped the British Music female vocalist polls throughout the '70s was the first UK female lead singer fronting a Rock band. She has been the constant flame leading Curved Air through the decades. Today, vibrant and edgy as ever, Sonja, the original prog diva gives a charismatic and highly visual performance. Looking like a glamorous gipsy queen with her flowing red hair and dressed in sparkly black, that signature voice is still as smoky and seductive as ever as she spins around the stage around the excellent musicians who are Curved Air. Phil Oakey recently recalled, “When I formed The Human League it was because I was such a huge Sonja Kristina fan and I still am.”

“Sonja Kristina prowls the front of the stage... expertly playing off the energy of all the performers with her.” - Alex Lynham, PROG magazine

All of the players impress. Although only drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa is from the original line-up, Sonja has found some stunning new instrumentalists who immerse the audience in a set of swirling, whirling solos that emphasize moods and nuances and floating waves of sound that act as a counterpoint to Sonja's dramatic sense of theatricality. Much to the excitement of Curved Air fans, classic-era guitarist Kirby Gregory returns to the fold for 'North Star'!

Says Sonja, “The performances were created and produced collaboratively by Curved Air with the expressive and intricate touch of the original drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa, and the mighty eloquence of Kirby Gregory (the composer of 'Purple Speed Queen' and 'UHF'), interwoven with the passionate melodic wizardry of violinist Paul Sax, and the atmospheric extemporization and groove of ambient sonic explorer Robert Norton on keyboards. Kirby returns to Curved Air after 35 years and has added his identity and creativity to the sound. His input and presence in the band feels so right to us all as we prepare to bring new Curved Air material to the world stage. Chris Harris on bass earths the music with drive and precision within the moods, motifs and fire of Curved Air - who are - as always - a dynamic creative collective of virtuoso performers.”

Curved Air is: Vocalist Sonja Kristina, Drummer Florian Pilkington Miksa, Guitarist Kirby Gregory, Violinist Paul Sax, Bass Chris Harris and Keyboard Player Robert Norton.

To order Curved Air's 'North Star':
http://www.cherryred.co.uk/shopexd.asp?id=4549
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/north-star/id843620008

To purchase Curved Air's “Stay Human” single:
https://itunes.apple.com/ph/album/stay-human-single/id815160384

www.curvedair.com
www.facebook.com/curvedair
www.reverbnation.com/curvedair
http://www.cherryred.co.uk/shopexd.asp?id=3894

Curved Air is managed by QEDG Management info@qedg.co.uk

Press inquiries: Glass Onyon PR, PH: 828-350-8158 (USA), glassonyonpr@gmail.com

Prog Rock Music Talk Featured Artist: AISLES - 4:45AM

4:45 AM is about pain, blood, resilience, and strength. The most extreme hour of the day, the time in which you either get up or get completely lost, an hour shared by a soul in decline and one ready to rise.

23 March 2014

Book Review: Supplement No. 1 to Connecticut Rocks! The History of Connecticut Rock 'N' Roll

Title: Supplement No. 1 to Connecticut Rocks! The History of Connecticut Rock 'N' Roll
Author:  Paul Bezanker
Details: 257 Page Supplement to 1998 Connecticut Rocks! Publication

Author Paul Bezanker is a music historian and author. He published Connecticut Rocks! – The History of Connecticut Rock ‘N” Roll In 1998 and most recently he has released the first volume of supplements to the reference guide of bands located in Connecticut.
The significance of these volumes is that no author has ever documented a half century of the recorded works of an entire state before.

I never had the opportunity to check out the first volume however while looking through this supplement I found it to be jam packed with facts, notations, dates, label names and reviews, to mention a few points.

It did not come across as just a reference guide because of all the different information offered in the 257 pages. I was impressed with the scope and breadth of this guide.

I think every state should have their own official music guide such as this and would be well advised to consider this as a guide or template for creating something similar for their own states.

It was long time between the first volume and supplement but I am sure there must be many hours of research and fact finding to put together information for one label never mind hundreds.

This supplement cannot be found on a website or Amazon, your typical outlets, you will have to send your in order in via the U.S. Postal Service or email the author to get more information.

Details For Purchasing: To U.S. addresses: $54.95; Canada: $59.95; Overseas: $69.95. Prices include postage. Send check/money order with your book order (U.S. funds only) (payable to: PAUL BEZANKER) & mail to: Paul Bezanker, 2603 Kim Miller Rd., Lake Toxaway, NC 28747 or send him an email at PBezanker@aol.com for any inquiries.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-Write A Music Review Founder
March 23, 2014

22 March 2014

Instrumental Review: Bob Ardern-Craftsman

Release Date:March 2014
Label: Independent

Bob Ardern is a guitar master whose music reaches across many genres. If you listen, you can hear a sampling of roots music with a dash of Celtic, Jazz and Americana thrown in for good measure. His unique sound arose from English folk music and the finger style guitar playing has stayed with him. In Craftsman we see a lot of old style instrumentation blended with the best of modern technology. Guest musicians include Alyssa Wright (cello), Don Bray (engineer), Dave Findlay and Kev Corbett (percussion, bass). The vast arrays of instruments used are: guitar, cello, trumpet, Glockenspiel, bodhran, pipe organ, Celesta, Spider Capo, Dragon’s Breath, bells, Synth pad, percussion and bass. The album features a special bonus track of “Paso Doble Solo Guitar” that is sure to whet any Classical guitar aficionado’s appetite.


“Tiddlywinks” is the opening track for the album and features Kev on percussion and Dave on the Hi Hat. It is a merry little tune, filled with elements of acoustic guitar that bumps along happily to a different sort of beat. The piece makes me think of walking along a path with butterflies popping along on a spring afternoon. Happiness and joyful play are the central feelings here. The music is festive and leads you into the open air of springtime.

“Back to Basics” Percussion, bass, piano and Dragon’s Breath synth pad are featured on this fun little composition. Playful, it is running on the beach and kicking sand into the air. It is splashing through small waves as they rush upon the shore. Finding joy in the simple things, remembering the happiness of discovery-of the realization that the best things in life are at times unexpected. Rattles of percussion intertwine with acoustic guitar and bass to create an evocative piece filled with emotion and awakening.

“Keep It Simple” begins with elegant guitar work that twists and winds its way along a textured path of artful instrumentation and composition. The melodies that flow from this piece are restful and if you close your eyes, you can see the colors burst inside of your imagination. If this song were a drink, it would be a velvety white chocolate mocha going down to warm your soul. Every finger movement is captured in minute detail, allowing the listener to fall into the music and just be.

“Paso Doble Solo Guitar” is the bonus track on the album. Deliberate and fluid, the fingering of this piece is a landscape of melody with an acoustic guitar gone solo. Whereas the original piece had the synth pad, bass, percussion and trumpet, this piece is solely guitar. You know the saying, less is more? I can’t think of a better example. (I loved the first version too, but this one was wonderful.) The pure sound churning out with every pluck and strum is like manna from Heaven. This track is pure bliss for the acoustic lover’s soul. 

Bob Ardern’s classic finger picking guitar style is epic. This Canadian artist has gathered some of the best guest musicians and producers together to craft an album worthy of spending time with. Seven capos and six strings brings us twelve tracks of instrumental guitar with flavors of Jazz, roots music, Americana, Classical and a bit of Celtic to mix things up a bit. Craftsman was exactly what the name of the album suggests. Each track was wrought with skill and intent to bring out the best of each instrument and artist performing. You won’t want to miss this one. Bob Ardern has made my must listen list and I look forward to his next album. 

4.5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Tiddlywinks, Back to Basics, Keep It Simple, Paso Doble Solo Guitar

Dana Wright

March 22, 2014

Review Provided By Write a Music Review

Tracks:
01.Tiddlywinks
02.Pipe Dream
03.Capo Breton Lullaby
04.Schrödinger's Cat
05.Keep It Simple
06.Nova Scotia New Age Blues
07.Back To Basics
08.Bellringers
09.Still Waiting
10.Winding Down
11.Paso Doble
12.Paso Doble Solo Guitar



21 March 2014

Progressive Rock Review: Ayreon-The Theory of Everything (Deluxe 2 CD/DVD)

Release Date: October 29, 2013
Label: Inside Out

When prog rock fans listen to music they expect a great storyline, complex music, and atmospheres that encourage that story. One artist that has had a proclivity for doing that his entire career is Arjen Anthony Lucassen, otherwise known as Ayreon. 

When The Theory of Everything came out last fall there was a lot of anticipation that his masterful concepts would continue along with all the incredible guest musicians. He did not disappoint, he never does.
A dream came true for Arjen on this musical sojourn. Three major players joined in on all the proceedings, each one a legendary keyboard player. Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson and Jordan Rudess made their contributions count on the session. Another legend, John Wetton, provided vocals as the character The Psychiatrist. 

I found myself all wrapped up in this story while listening. In short it’s about a boy and his mother that are not getting enough attention from the scientist father who is working day and night trying to literally figure out The Theory of Everything. Further into the story, the father finally tells the son that he had been giving him a drug, using him as an experiment in hopes that it would help the boy overcome his problems. There is much more to it all and that is a short encapsulation of what you will hear. The music is right on time and spot on for every track and it always puts more emphasis and thought upon the entire process of listening for the music fans. Anyone that is familiar with Arjen’s music knows of his fascination with the unknown, science fiction and what confounds man and all the mysteries of the cosmos. That is his driving force along with a never ending desire to create music in his studio.

Arjen puts it all into proper perspective in his own words: "The story on this album looks at what happens when people are driven by an irresistible passion, like me in music. In this case, it's a scientist who is obsessed with finding the theory of everything -- the equation that will explain and tie together all known physical phenomena. He's so focused on solving the theory that he risks losing everything, including his family.  But he is not alone -- all of the characters are driven to fill some kind of emotional need no matter what the consequences. If I had to sum it up in one sentence, I would say thatthe story deals with the drive to succeed and the emotional costs that come with treading the fine line between genius and madness."

One element I particularly enjoyed besides all of the heavy prog metal guitars, bass and swirling keyboards was Troy Donockley’s Uileaan Pipes. That one addition gave the music an air of distinction that separated it from all other prog projects that came out last year. CD 1 has 22 tracks and CD 2 has 20 so it a very generous collection. Arjen told me that it would take some time to sit and listen and be able to assimilate the entire package. He was right however it was a joy to do so.

Arjen continues to outdo the last project and he never seems to run out of steam. He is always inspired and has a lot of respect in the prog community. One look at the guest list would make that obvious. I know he is a very humble man and does not consider himself to be a legendary performer like the people that contribute to his projects but he has earned a place amongst the elite in prog rock. The Theory of Everything is one more addition to his ever growing popularity and impressive legacy.

One bonus I always look forward to is the DVD and all footage of Arjen and his guests during the creative process in the studio. I would feel incomplete without it. Not only is he one of the hardest working musicians on the planet, he makes it a point to communicate with all of his fans. That is so important especially now in our digital age. This man is as real as it gets folks and his music is something to be appreciated by all music fans.

This album showcases masterful musicianship, incredible vocals from talented men and women and a story that is thought provoking and exciting every step of the way. If you need an escape valve for a few hours and one that is not cookie cutter radio spew, then this can be your one way ticket to another world. Arjen has the magic and he uses it to the fullest extent. This is without a doubt a prog lover’s happy place.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: ALL

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-Prog Rock Music Talk Founder
March 21, 2014

Tracks:
Disc I
01. Phase I: Singularity
    1 - Prologue: The Blackboard
    2 - The Theory Of Everything [Part I]
    3 - Patterns
    4 - The Prodigy's World
    5 - The Teacher's Discovery
    6 - Love And Envy
    7 - Progressive Waves
    8 - The Gift
    9 - The Eleventh Dimension
    10 - Inertia
    11 - The Theory Of Everything [Part II]
02. Phase II: Symmetry
    1 - The Consultation
    2 - Diagnosis
    3 - The Argument I
    4 - The Rival's Dilemma
    5 - Surface Tension
    6 - A Reason To Live
    7 - Potential
    8 - Quantum Chaos
    9 - Dark Medicine
    10 - Alive!
    11 - The Prediction

Disc II
01. Phase III: Entanglement
    1 - Fluctuations
    2 - Transformation
    3 - Collision
    4 - Side Effects
    5 - Frequency Modulation
    6 - Magnetism
    7 - Quid Pro Quo
    8 - String Theory
    9 - Fortune?
02. Phase IV: Unification
    1 - Mirror Of Dreams
    2 - The Lighthouse
    3 - The Argument II
    4 - The Parting
    5 - The Visitation
    6 - The Breakthrough
    7 - The Note
    8 - The Uncertainty Principle
    9 - Dark Energy
    10 - The Theory Of Everything [Part III]
    11 - The Blackboard [reprise]

Disc III [Special Edition DVD]
01. The Making Of The Theory Of Everything
02. Full-length Interviews
03. Recording Session Time Lapse Footage
 

Prog Video: Rocket Scientists - Traveler on the Supernatural Highways

Progressive Rock Review: RPWL-Wanted

Release Date: 1stApril 2014
Label:   Gentle Art Of Music

I picked up on the band RPWL when I caught a few tracks from the album, Beyond Man And Time, the album prior to this new release, Wanted, back in 2012. The music was an extension and an evolution from their birth as a Pink Floyd tribute band back in 1997, and I was hooked and then listened to much of their back catalogue. When Wanteddropped through the ether for review, I smiled with anticipation.

RPWL, so named after the four original members, (Rissettio, Postl, Wallner and Lang) have released 10 albums since 2000, and Wanted becomes release No 11. Currently RPWL is a 5 piece band with Yogi Lang (vocals, keyboards), Kalle Wallner (guitar), Markus Jehle (keyboards), Mark Turiaux (drums) and Werner Taus (bass), and Yogi and Kalle are original band members.

There is a concept within the album Wanted, that of, “the liberation of the spirit.” The band tells the story that was discovered in an analysis of Hippocrates work in a diary by Plato. The basis of the storyline is that a formula for a medicine that “frees the mind” has been produced, but Plato wonders if the human race is ready for the gift of “absolute freedom.” How exactly do you deal with this sort of idea within an album that runs for just over an hour? RPWL manage to successfully do so with consummate ease.

Wanted is a 10 track album with a total playing time of around 64 minutes, with track 3, “A Short Cut Line,” the shortest at 3:03 minutes and the penultimate track, “The Attack,” the longest at 11:32 minutes.

As with every album, the opening track is always a very important gateway to the rest of the album contents. “Revelation” (5:30) is a rousing instrumental with an electronic start and then into some fuzz guitar and mellotron. It is a track which ebbs and flows, returning to the original theme and ensuring that the interest of the listener is maintained at all times. The track then moves seamlessly into “Swords And Guns” (9:02) which starts with the sound of marching and then morphs into a heavy riffing section with chanted lyrics, before the sound continues with drums, bass and keyboards and a crystal clear vocal by Yogi Lang highlights the track. This is melodic progressive rock at its superb best and features a majestic keyboard section in the second half of the song. The track switches from the urgency of the chanted vocals to the more relaxed, but equally powerful melodic areas. The band is working as a finely tuned unit and again the excellent flow of the track demands attention.

“A Short Cut Line” (3:03) makes use of natural sounds, such as church bells and marching, together with some electronics before moving gently into an interesting, if short, instrumental which makes use of some “film score” style background voices. The title track, “Wanted” (4:39) is a more up-tempo rocker but the melodic style remains strong throughout, and leads on to “Hide And Seek” (5:19), which is a superb acoustic based track, which evolves into a keyboard/guitar passage and which sees Yogi Lang carry the track with that clear powerful voice.

“Disbelief” (6:24), “Perfect Day” (6:32) and “A Misguided Thought” (6:32) are varied pieces of melodic prog which flow effortlessly and carry the storyline that is unfolding through the album. The longest track, “The Attack” (11:32) is a slow-building slab of music, which RPWL are very skilled and it is a tour-de-force piece of music allowing Kalle Warner a chance to show his skills. The final track, “A New Dawn” (5:43) is a superb acoustic based track again which has those crystal clear vocals and gently builds to a stunning guitar passage, which makes it a majestic track to end the album on.

The crux of the concept seems to point the finger at the “tyranny contained within religion,” and I leave it up to the individual listeners as to what they make of the lyrical content. This is a superb album produced by musicians who are highly skilled and possess the ability to gel together to produce the unique sound that is RWPL. It is true that there is a nod to the David Gilmour style of the latter day Pink Floyd, but they have moved well away from simply being imitators.

Wantedgets both stickers, “One to Buy” and “The Experience will last Forever” and should certainly top many wish lists. This album is definitely one of those that could be described as “miss this at your peril” releases. It is only March, and Wanted is another album that will be in competition for best release of the year.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Swords and Guns, The Attack, A New Dawn

Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson-Sr. Reviewer Prog Rock Music Talk

March 21, 2014

Tracks:
Revelation
Swords And Guns
A Short Cut Line
Wanted
Hide And seek
Disbelief
A misguided Thought
Perfect Day
The Attack
A New Dawn