Category Archives: CD Reviews

Guitar Genius Dewa Budjana Dazzles Again

Dewa Budjana – Mahandini (Moonjune Records/Bukalapak, 2018)

Indonesian guitarist Dewa Budjana continues to demonstrate why he’s one of the finest guitarists in the jazz and rock scenes. He’s a prolific artist who has recorded and collaborated with some of the biggest names in the progressive jazz and rock fields.

Dewa Budjana has explored various musical genres in past albums. On Mahandini, he incorporates harder edged music. He rocks out throughout the album with a dazzling mix of progressive rock, jazz fusion, Indian vocal percussion (konnakol), transfixing Balinese traditional music and some hard rock.

His colleagues this time are multi-faceted keyboardist Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats, Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani), and extraordinary Indian bassist and rising talent Mohini Dey.

The guests include the unmistakable vocals of rock star John Frusciante (Red Hot Chilli Peppers) on two tracks, fusion guitar virtuoso Mike Stern (Miles Davis, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Billy Cobham, Jaco Pastorius) and the enchanting vocals of Indonesian singer Soimah.

Dewa Budjana’s wide range of guitar sounds and techniques is truly impressive with masterfully-crafted melodies and solos, spectacular shredding and exquisite slide guitar.

Buy Mahandini

The Fusion Marvels of Barxeta II

Per Mathisen, Jan Gunnar Hoff and Horacio “El Negro” Hernández – Barxeta II (Losen Records, 2018)

The Barxeta series revolves around two exceptional instrumentalists and composers, bassist Per Mathisen and keyboardist Jan Gunnar Hoff. This is state of the art jazz fusion featuring outstanding instrumental performances inspired by some of the finest acts: Return to Forever, Weather Report, Pat Metheny, and others.

On Barxeta, rhythm is also essential. On volume II, Hoff and Mathisen invited Cuban maestro Horacio “El Negro” Hernández, one of the most reputable drummers in the jazz and Cuban music scene. Horacio’s drums are a perfect fit.

Throughout the album, the listener is treated to masterful bass work, captivating piano and superb synthesizer work by Jan Gunnar Hoff, and the creative drumming of Horacio “El Negro” Hernández.
Barxeta is a recording studio in eastern Spain and a great place to realize the ideas of this talented group of musicians. Per Mathisen promises more Barxeta releases in the next years.

Buy Barxeta II

New Editions of All Three “Phenomena” AOR Rock Concept Albums

Phenomena

Phenomena, an easy listening rock and pop music concept album series envisioned by record producer Tom Galley and his brother, guitarist Mel Galley, is now available in brand new editions. The contributors were leading rock musicians like Brian May (Queen), John Wetton (King Crimson, Asia), Glenn Hughes (Trapeze), Don Airey (Deep Purple), Mel Galley (Whitesnake), Neil Murray (Whitesnake, Black Sabbath) and Cozy Powell (The Jeff Beck Group, Rainbow) among others.

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 throughout Europe, in Japan and Brazil.

 

Phenomena II Dream Runner

 

Phenomena III – Innervision

 

 

The Phenomena series presents ear friendly, toe tapping rock with pop hooks and catchy melodies.

Buy Phenomena, Phenomena II Dream Runner and Phenomena III – Innervision in North America

Dina El Wedidi Explores Ambience and the Sounds of Trains

Dina El Wedidi – Slumber (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2018)

Egyptian artist Dina El Wedidi is known as a vocalist, composer and percussionist who performs world music rooted in Egyptian tradition. Her new album Slumber takes her in a totally new direction.

On Slumber, Dina El Wedidi enters the world of electronic music and sound experimentation in the studio. For two years, she worked with the sounds from various Egyptian train stations, people in the streets and moving trains, including train whistles. The result is a set of electronically processed music featuring ambient music layers, trance-like percussion generated by trains and Dina El Wedidi’s dream-like vocals.

Dina El Wedidi’s previous recordings include Aswan (2013), Jinja (2014) and Turning Back – Tedawar W’Tergaa (2014).

Slumber is a transfixing, masterfully-crafted and accessible experimental album by the multifaceted Egyptian artist Dina El Wedidi.

Buy Slumber in North America

Buy Slumber in Europe

Entrancing Ambience from Laraaji, Arji OceAnanda and Dallas Acid

Laraaji • Arji OceAnanda • Dallas Acid – Arrive Without Leaving (2018)

Arrive Without Leaving is a fascinating collaboration that brings together various artists involved with acoustic and electronic ambient music, minimalism and sounds explorations.

On Arrive Without Leaving, Laraaji, Arji OceAnanda and Dallas Acid take the listener on a spellbinding voyage through mesmeric music, combining evolving electronic layers, mystical flutes and Laraaji’s signature sound on the electrified zither.

The lineup includes Laraaji on electrified zither, mbira, percussion, electronics, voice, ThumbJam electric violin, samples; Arji OceAnanda on percussion, ThumbJam strings, ThumbJam flute, Peruvian cacho seed pods, hand chimes, mbira, shakers; and Dallas Acid, featuring Linda Beecroft on steel tongue drum, gong; Michael Gerner on Moog synthesizers and Mellotron; and Christian Havins
Pn Moog synthesizers and Mellotron.

Buy Arrive Without Leaving

Dazzling Fusion by Vasil Hadzimanov Band

Vasil Hadzimanov Band – Lines In Sand

Vasil Hadzimanov Band – Lines In Sand (Moonjune Records, 2018)

Vasil Hadzimanov Band is one of the most fascinating progressive jazz fusion acts in the current international scene. Led by versatile Serbian keyboardist Vasil Hadzimanov, this superb fusion band incorporates jazz-rock fusion, world music elements, funk, and electronica.

Highlights include the opening title track “Lines In Sand,” where absorbing wordless vocals and trance-like drums intertwine with electric piano and cutting edge electric guitar; “San Snova,” a jazz-leaning piece where Vasil Hadzimanov showcases his talent on the acoustic piano; the exquisitely gorgeous female vocals and dreamy string synths on “Lost,” featuring the lovely singing by Marta Hadzimanov that transitions into remarkable guitar work by Branko Trijic; the forward-thinking trip hop set “Kazi” and “Kazi Gradiska;” and the Middle Eastern-inspired fusion track “Freedom From the Past.”

The band includes Vasil Hadzimanov on keyboards; Branko Trijic on guitar; Miroslav Tovirac on bass guitar; Bojan Ivkovic on percussion, vocals; and Pedja Milutinovic on drums
Special guests: Rastko Obradovic on saxophone; Marta Hadzimanov on lead vocals (track 4); and Dean Bowman on lead vocal (track 8).

Buy Lines In Sand

Thought-provoking Psychoyogi

Psychoyogi – Accident Prone (Psychoyogi, 2018)

Accident Prone is the latest recording by British progressive act Psychoyogi. The band’s style cuts across various musical genres, incorporating a wide range of influences and moods, including progressive rock, jazz and avant-garde expressions.

The vocal style is unique, sometimes more spoken word than traditional singing, with socially-conscious lyrics that cast doubt on western social values.

Psychoyogi’s sound mostly revolves around the quirky interaction between the guitar and saxophone and rhythm section. You’ll hear echoes of Henry Cow, Adrian Belew-era King Crimson and even some Canterbury minus the keyboards.

The band lineup includes Chris Ramsing on guitar and vocals; Justin Casey on drums and percussion; Izzy Stylish on bass; and John Macnaughton on alto and tenor sax.

Buy the CD from psychoyogi.bandcamp.com or the digital download from amazon.

Hungarian Folk Transformed Through Progressive Rock

Yesterdays – Senki Madara (Author’s Edition, 2018)

Senki madara is the third album by Hungarian progressive rock band Yesterdays. On this new recording, Yesterdays delivers a superb mix of classic symphonic progressive rock with Hungarian folk music. The approach of this concept is to take traditional folk songs and recreate them with 1970’s-style progressive rock arrangements.

The multifaceted mix works seamlessly. The progressive rock influences include some of the most iconic acts of the first wave of prog bands: Yes, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Genesis and Camel. You’ll find a delightful combination of Hungarian vocals and vintage keyboards, including the revered mellotron.

Yesterdays is a Hungarian symphonic progressive rock band based in Carei, Romania, led by Bogáti-Bokor Ákos. Yesterdays’ previous albums include Colours Caffé (2010) and A szavakon túl (2009).

The lineup includes Stephanie Semeniuc on lead and backing vocals; Bogáti-Bokor Ákos on acoustic and electric guitars, bass, fretless bass, mellotron, Hammond organ, piano, Moog, synthesizers, percussion, backing vocals; Enyedi Zsolt on piano, Hammond, Moog, synthesizers; Fehér Róbert Benjamin on acoustic and electric guitars, backing vocals; Kecskeméti Gábor on flute; Kósa Dávid on percussion and vocals; and Szűcs József on drums.

Special guests: Szirtes Edina Mókus on lead vocals; Tarsoly Csenge on lead and backing vocals; Bogáti-Bokor Orsolya on violin and viola; Márton-Sípos Dóra on cello.

Buy Senki Madara.

Formidable Italian Band Syndone Addresses Misogyny in Concept Album

Syndone – Mysoginia (Maracash Records, 2018)

Italian progressive symphonic rock band Syndone has matured into one of the finest acts in the European scene. The band’s style is a mix of symphonic rock and jazz-rock fusion that revolves around the sounds of multiple electronic keyboards, sometimes exquisitely distorted; the mesmerizing vibraphone; glorious chamber music strings; and charismatic, theatrical vocals.

The concept album Mysoginia (Misogyny) is Syndone’s seventh album. Vocalist and lyricist Riccardo Ruggeri describes the spirit of the album: “It emerges from its very single word, from people’s reactions, through certain looks, from a grimace. Humanity and its fight against female sex. Misogyny – of men and women – against those who can damage the power, against those who can give life but aren’t able to give love. A crime destined to go on for centuries, in which we are all immersed and accomplices. A story we must not forget, to respect all the victims and all the heroines. A tribute to those women who have suffered violence in our blind, bully and ignorant society. From Caterina de Medici to Ipazia… Look at yourself in the mirror, you cowardly man! You woman daughter of a cold mother! And rip out this evil from your heart!

The current lineup includes composer Nik Comoglio on keyboards; Riccardo Ruggeri on vocals and acoustic guitar; Maurino Dellacqua on bass and Taurus bass; Marta Caldara on vibraphone and keyboards; Gigi Rivetti on keyboards; and Martino Malacrida on drums.

Buy Mysoginia

Glass Hammer Travels Back to Early Prog

Glass Hammer – Chronomonaut (Sound Resources/Arion Records, 2018)

Chronomonaut is part 2 of a concept album developed by American progressive rock band Glass Hammer. The story follows Tom, a progressive rock-obsessed individual who received alien voices speaking to him through his favorite albums. Volume 1, Chronometree centered on Tom’s teenage years in the late 1970s. On Chronomonaut, Tom has grown up and experiences a mid-life crisis. The voices have returned and have been inciting Tom to time-travel back to the splendor days of the early progressive scene.

Glass Hammer have nailed it. They have captured the essence of early progressive rock, where proto symphonic influences met Beatles influences; brass-fueled rock-jazz similar to Blood, Sweat and Tears and early Chicago; folk-rock, and psychedelia. Although considerably less symphonic than many of their previous recordings, the instrumental section led by current members Babb, Raulston and Schendel is formidable, with memorable guitar solos, magnificent keyboards, creative drumming and lead bass lines.

On the vocal side, the band uses various vocalists, including current member Susie Bogdanowicz as well as Discipline’s Matthew Parmenter and a local Gospel singer called Patton Locke.

The Glass Hammer lineup on this album includes Steve Babb on bass, keyboards, lead and backing vocals; Fred Schendel on keyboards, guitars and backing vocals; Susie Bogdanowicz on lead vocals; and Aaron Raulston on drums.

Guests featured: Brian Brewer on guitar, steel guitar and mandolin; Jamison Smeltz on saxophone; Matthew Parmenter on lead vocals; Chris Herin on guitar; Reese Boyd on guitar; Phil Stiles on guitars; Tommy Ogle on saxophone; Bria Poteet on trombone; Stephen Bearden on trumpet; and Randall Williams on drums.

Buy Chronomonaut