Category Archives: CD Reviews

Tarkus Deluxe Edition

Emerson, Lake, and Palmer – Tarkus (Deluxe Edition)
Emerson, Lake, and Palmer

Tarkus (Deluxe Edition) (Razor & Tie Recordings, 2012)

The triple set Tarkus (Deluxe Edition) is the second volume of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer released by Razor & Tie. Tarkus was the second album by progressive rock superband Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. The band didn’t care much about radio hits and continued to push boundaries.

The triple album features the original album on disc, a new stereo mix and 5.1 surround sound engineered by Steven Wilson.

The first track is the mammoth 21-minute suite titled Tarkus, which is divided into several parts: Eruption, Stones Of Years, Iconoclast, Mass, Manticore, The Battlefield, and Aquatarkus. This suite is depicted in the album artwork by William Neal that features an iconic armadillo, half animal, half war machine with tank treads and armor. The idea was to capture the vibrancy of the band’s sound. The original Tarkus epic took the entire side 1 of the LP. Meanwhile, the artwork showed the armadillo fighting several mythical beasts such as the manticore.

The Tarkus suite is an impressive piece of classical and jazz-infused progressive rock, full of virtuosic electric organ, piano and synthesizer work; Carl Palmer’s impressive drumming, pushing time signatures; and Greg Lake’s evocative vocals and fine bass work.

The next is a honky tonk piano ballad featuring Emerson on upright piano, Lake on vocals and Palmer on drums. It’s hard to make sense of the lyrics so it’s better to leave up to the imagination.

Bitches Crystal presents a prog rock version of a boogie woogie. Emerson and Palmer were fans of jazz masters like Dave Brubeck and took these influences into uncharted territories, blending piano with synthesizers and the band’s powerhouse rhythm section.

The sounds of the pipe organ and synthesizers announce a shift towards deep classical influences. It’s a beautiful hymn initially with Lake on vocals and Emerson on majestic organ. The piece later morphs into tasty jazzy Bach-style keyboards, drums and bass.

Infinite Space (Conclusion) is a powerful piano, drums and bass instrumental. Next comes another signature electric organ and drums-fueled piece, featuring Lake’s passionate vocals.

The original albums ends with a fun rock and roll piece titled Are You Ready Eddy? Dedicated to Eddy Offord, the album’s engineer. Eddie Offord is a mythical figure in progressive rock as he engineered tseveral of the most iconic albums by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer and Yes.

Disc 2 contains bonus material such as ‘Oh, My Father,’ recorded during the Tarkus era. It features Lake on vocals and rockish lead electric guitar.

There is also an odd track called ‘Unknown Ballad’ that feels more like folk rock than Tarkus-style progressive rock.

The album ends with an alternate version of Mass (part 4 of the Tarkus suite). It’s an instrumental version led by Keith Emerson’s synthesizers.

The CD booklet contains the mesmerizing original artwork as well as vintage photos and details about the original recording and Steven Wilson’s participation as an engineer. It will answer some of the questions fans have been making about sound quality and vision.

Naturally, Tarkus is a classic album that belongs in any progressive rock collection.

Buy Tarkus (Deluxe Edition)

Pointing Us Toward the Bass

Marcus Miller – Renaissance Man
Marcus Miller

Renaissance Man (Concord Jazz, 2012)

A new album by Marcus Miller is always a good cause for celebration. Although he is one the finest electric bassists in the world, his solo career is not very prolific. Renaissance Man is his 8th solo album in a long notable musical career.

With Renaissance Man, Marcus Miller continues his fusions of funk and jazz with other musical elements, such as Latin jazz and rock.

The album contains some of his signature funk jazz pieces with fabulous rhythmic and solo bass lines. On ‘February’ he ventures into flamenco jazz with Spanish bass melodies, percussion that recalls palmas (handclap percussion) and brass solos that seem inspired by Jorge Pardo’s work.

‘Setembro (Brazilian Wedding Song)’ combines Brazilian jazz with Afro-Latin rhythms and Spanish salsa vocals by none other than the legendary Panamanian vocalist Rubén Blades. Other guest appearances include Dr. John and vocalist Gretchen Parlato.

The line-up on the album includes Marcus Miller on bass and clarinet; Alex Han on saxophone, Lewis Cato on drums, Adam Rogers and Adam Agati on guitars, Federico Gonzalez Peña and Kris Bowers on keyboards, Sean Jones and Maurice Brown on trumpet, Bobby Sparks on organ, and Ramón Yslas on percussion.

Renaissance Man will not disappoint electric bass fans. It’s full of superb bass solos by one of the great masters of our time, accompanied by an excellent combo of musicians.

Buy Renaissance Man

The First Emerson, Lake & Palmer Classic Revisited

Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Emerson, Lake & Palmer Deluxe Edition
Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Emerson, Lake & Palmer Deluxe Edition (Razor & Tie Recordings, 2012 reissue)

Razor & Tie Records begins its anticipated collection of Emerson, Lake & Palmer reissues with the band’s self-titled first album. Emerson, Lake & Palmer was the first progressive rock super band. It brought together three outstanding young British musicians. Keyboardist Keith Emerson had already made an impression with the band The Nice that combined rock with classical music. Singer, guitarist and bassist Greg Lake came from one of the royal families of progressive rock, King Crimson. Drummer Carl Palmer was a member of one of the pioneering prog band Atomic Rooster.

The album Emerson, Lake & Palmer Deluxe Edition was an instant classic, with a mix of instrumental virtuosity and some of the most beautiful rock ballads of the early 1970s. At the time, Keith Emerson used primarily piano and organ. The only clearly audible synthesizers were the memorable epic solo that appears at the end of ‘Lucky Man’ and the final part of ‘Tank.’ These were, in fact, two of the first synthesizer solos that made it to commercial radio and opened the doors for the further use of the versatile electronic musical instrument.

The Deluxe version contains 3 CDs. Disc 1 includes the original album released in 1970. Emerson, Lake & Palmer Deluxe Edition ‘The Barbarian,’ an instrumental with a scorching bass, drum and organ intro. Current day bands should take a listen to how rich and powerful Emerson, Lake & Palmer sounded with only three musicians. Although the drums are powerful, they are highly creative and extremely varied.

Next comes the unforgettable classic song ‘Take A Pebble,’ with Greg Lake’s unmistakable voice. The band creates a mysterious atmosphere with the use of soft high hat cymbals, beautiful piano sections, remarkable bass lines and some Keith Emerson experimentations such as the strumming of the piano strings.

Track 3, ‘Knife-Edge,’ also features vocals by Greg Lake, with spectacular electric organ melodies and improvisations by Emerson, combining classical, jazz and blues elements.

On ‘The Three Fates’ Keith Emerson introduces the majestic sounds of a church organ as well as piano that eventually lead to a jazzy mix of classical piano, percussion and bass.

‘Tank’ is another instrumental with remarkable bass lines, brilliant harpsichord-style keyboards and really fine drumming by Palmer, including a solo. Yes, this was the time when rock musicians were allowed to feature solos in studio albums, before the tyranny of format radio.

The album ends with ‘Lucky Man,’ one of the most recognizable songs by Emerson, Lake & Palmer and also one of their first hits. Although the piece begins as an acoustic guitar, vocal and drum song, this ballad made history with its synthesizer solo conclusion.

So what’s new about this reissue? Disc 2 contains new 2012 stereo mixes of most of the original tracks from Emerson, Lake & Palmer except for ‘Tank.’ This new stereo mix was carried out by British musician Steven Wilson, who in addition to his successful band and solo career, has also become the favorite engineer of artists and labels that are remastering classic progressive rock recordings.

Wilson has done a great job. I like the new mixes. The overall sound is improved and the bass has more relevance. Disc 2 also includes various unreleased instrumentals and several alternate versions of ‘Take a Pebble’ and ‘Lucky Man.’ You can hear up to three versions of this song: acoustic, electric with a psychedelic-style guitar solo and the prog rock version with a more creative guitar solo and synthesizer.

Disc 3 is a DVD with 5.1 Mixes of the 6 original tracks and High-Res Stereo Mixes of the bonus tracks on Disc 2.

Overall, Emerson, Lake & Palmer Deluxe Edition is a superb classic album that belongs in any rock collection from the 1970s and a must have for progressive rock fans.

Buy Emerson, Lake & Palmer Deluxe Edition

Trouble With Machines

District 97 – Trouble With Machines
District 97

Trouble With Machines (The Lasers Edge, 2012)

District 97 is getting rave reviews from some critics. I see why, because the musicians are indeed excellent. However, this is yet another progressive rock band that uses an excessive amount of heavy metal riffs. Throughout their new album, Trouble With Machines , there are excellent musical passages, especially when the hard and heavy guitar riffs disappear. Obviously, guitarist Jim Tashjian is highly skilled and demonstrates so throughout the album, but the constant heavy rock attacks drown out the keyboards and vocals.

The best cuts are ‘The Actual Color’ which has an epic nature and great vocals and solo guitar work, along with a vibrant rhythm section; ‘The Perfect Young Man’ (featuring John Wetton) with a fabulous combination of female and male vocals as well as another epic conclusion; ‘Who Cares?’ with its fine vocal and keyboard moments; ‘Read Your Mind’ which is one of the most creative with the use of cello and excellent shredding guitar; and ‘The Thief,’ the longest cut. It features beautiful keyboard, vocal and guitar sections, interspersed with more annoying riffs.

Current band members include Leslie Hunt, one of the finest singers in the current progressive rock scene, on vocals; Rob Clearfield on keyboards; Jim Tashjian on guitar; drummer Jonathan Schang on drums; and bassist Patrick Mulcahy on bass.

Of all the newer bands, District 97 has tremendous potential. I see a bright future if they realize that they can sound powerful without resorting to tired metal clichés.

District 97 will be going on tour this October in support of Trouble With Machines. “We can’t wait to hit the road in support of our new release, Trouble With Machines,” said the band about its upcoming tour. “We feel so fortunate to be playing shows with Neal Morse/Mike Portnoy, Three Friends (featuring members of Gentle Giant), IZZ and many more fantastic groups as we make our way through the Midwest and East Coast. Fans can expect to hear a good chunk of Trouble With Machines, as well as cuts from Hybrid Child and some brand-new material. We look forward to seeing some of the great people we met on the road last year and hopefully seeing lots of new faces as well. See you in October!

Trouble With Machines Fall US Tour

Thursday, October 11th
Shank Hall, Milwaukee, WI
with Fibonnacii Sequence and Michael Bettine (Gong virtuoso)
http://www.shankhall.com

Friday, October 12th
ProgNight @ The Arcada Theater, St Charles, IL
with Neal Morse (feat. Mike Portnoy) and Three Friends
http://www.oshows.com/#!news/cnyl

Thursday, October 18th
Token Lounge, Westland, MI
with Imminent Sonic Destruction, Recycle the Soul, Crutch to Crown
http://thetokenlounge.com/directions.html

Friday, October 19th
Wilbert’s, Cleveland, OH
with Gravity and Chill Broz
http://wilbertsmusic.com

Saturday, October 20th
Orion Sound Studios, Baltimore, MD
with IZZ
http://www.orionsound.com

Sunday, October 21st
NJ ProgHouse @ Roxy and Duke’s Roadhouse, Dunellen, NJ
with IZZ
Matinee show at 5 PM
http://njproghouse.com

Monday, October 22nd
Prog on the Sound Concert Series
With IZZ
Marisa’s Ristorante, Trumbull, CT
district-97-izz-live-marisas-ristorante-21-over

Tuesday, October 23rd
Magic Room, Brighton, MA
With IZZ Lite
http://www.newears.org

Wednesday, October 24th
Bar Matchless, Brooklyn, NY
with IZZ, The Yellow Box
http://www.barmatchless.com/events.html

Thursday, October 25th
The Smiling Moose, Pittsburgh, PA
with Chaibaba and adadsdad

Buy Trouble With Machines in North America

Buy Trouble With Machines in Europe

Masterful Jacaranda

Trevor Rabin – Jacaranda
Trevor Rabin

Jacaranda (Varese Records)

Most people will identify Trevor Rabin with his participation in legendary rock band Yes. Although Yes had been one of the leading progressive rock bands in the 1970s, by the time Rabin joined the band, it had essentially become an AOR band. I’m not a great fan of 1980s Yes so I was not very interested in Rabin’s career. However, Trevor Rabin now has my full attention as he proves that he is an excellent composer and skilled instrumentalist in his 2012 album titled Jacaranda. This is first solo effort since his 1989 recording Can’t Look Away.

On Jacaranda, Rabin demonstrates that he is a musician with an eclectic taste. His instrumental pieces range from delicious bluesy dobro solos and prog rock guitar virtuosity to high energy jazz fusion, and neoclassical music. In addition to various types of guitars (sometimes exquisitely overdubbed), Rabin also plays keyboards and bass on Jacaranda.

Even though there is not a bad track in the album, highlights include the proggy ‘Market Street’ and ‘Anerley Road’; the mesmerizing ‘Rescue’ that features Liz Constantine on vocals, creating a feel very similar to Lisa Gerrard’s (Dead Can Dance) style; the swinging ‘Freethought’; and the laid back blues ‘Zoo Lake’.

The drums were provided by renowned jazz and rock drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (Sting, Frank Zappa), Rabin’s regular drummer Lou Molino III, and Rabin’s son Ryan Rabin (who has a band called Grouplove). Some bass parts were performed by Tal Wilkenfeld (Jeff Beck, Herbie Hancock).

The booklet comes with comments about the pieces and lists the various instruments used.

Jacaranda presents an outstanding multi-instrumentalist and composer in his prime, who crosses musical boundaries at ease, developing melodies, harmonies and rhythms rich in detail.

Buy Jacaranda in North America

Shifting Psychedelic Themes and Sounds

Mahogany Frog – Senna
Mahogany Frog

Senna (Moonjune Records MJR048, 2012)

Fans of psychedelic progressive rock are in for a treat with
Senna , the sixth album by Canadian space rockers Mahogany Frog. The all-instrumental effort adds a jam or improvisational elements to the mix, with the use of electric guitars, vintage synthesizers, sequencers and a solid rhythm section.

Some of the pieces have a sound that recall early Pink Floyd. However, there is much more. The vintage organs give some of the cuts a jazzy Canterbury flavor. The last four tracks on the album have a more modern feel with ambient space explorations and rockish jams that are closer to current space rock. The last piece on the album is the most exploratory with abundant sound experimentation.

Band members include Graham Epp on electric guitars, MicroMoog, Farfisa organ, Farf Muff, ARP String Ensemble, Korg MS2000, electric & acoustic pianos; Jesse Warkentin: electric guitars, MicroMoog, Farfisa organ, Farf Muff, ARP String Ensemble, Korg MS2000, electric & acoustic pianos; Scott Ellenberger: electric & acoustic bass, Briscoe organ, percussion; and Andy Rudolph: drums, percussion & electronics. Eric lussier appears as guest musician on ‘Aqua Love,’ playing the harpsichord.

Senna presents a superb mix of turbo charged space rock, dreamy psychedelia and shifting sound experimentation.

Buy Senna in North America

Buy Senna in North America

Jakabar’s Buddha Chill

Jakabar – Buddha Chill Vol. 2
Jakabar

Buddha Chill Vol. 2 (Seamless Recordings, 2012)

Buddha Chill Vol. 2 is a collection of chillout electronic music tracks by Italian duo Jakabar. Berny Gardin and Silvano Penzo are the musicians behind Jakabar and are also known artistically as Jakare and Berny.

The album features a mix of dreamy electronic instruments, evocative piano and other acoustic instruments, including natural sounds and voices. Electronic styles include chillout, ambient, minimalist and melodic.

Buddha Chill Vol. 2 was released last July, a great time to relax or meditate while on vacation, listening to mesmerizing and delightful atmospheric music.

Buy Buddha Chill Vol. 2 in North America

Buy Buddha Chill Vol. 2 in Europe

The Alternate Yes Live

Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe – Live at the NEC Oct 24th 1989
Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe

Live at the NEC Oct 24th 1989 (Gonzo Multimedia HST006CD, 2012)

In the late 1980s, progressive rock band Yes had been reduced to an AOR stadium band and broke up into two bands. Bassist Chris Squire kept the Yes name and the other four essential Yes musicians formed Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. Live at the NEC Oct 24th 1989 is a triple disc that contains two CDs of live music that originally came out in 1994 and a 26-minute DVD with behind the scenes footage.

I was never a fan of the Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe studio album. Although the Yes luminaries were there, the album was a collection of radio oriented pop and AOR songs. Thankfully, Live at the NEC Oct 24th 1989 contains a mix of the Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe songs and quite a few of the best material from early Yes. And just because of this and the video, it’s worth acquiring.

Disc 1 begins with a medley that contains the classic ‘Time and a Word’, my least favorite Yes song ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’ and ‘Teakbois.’ This is followed by a series of solo pieces by Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman and the always fabulous ‘Long Distance Runaround’ that segues into a vibrant Bill Bruford solo. The original ‘Long Distance Runaround’ featured chris Squires excellent bass. In this occasion, the bass is played by Tony Levin (King Crimson and Peter Gabriel), who does an outstanding job.

Track 6 is ‘Birthright,’ a weaker cut from Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. The rest of the disc features three more exquisite early Yes compositions, ‘And You and I’, ‘All Good People’ and the enthralling masterpiece ‘Close to the Edge.’

Disc 2 opens with the poppy ‘Themes’. It’s an extended version with a great final instrumental part featuring a Bruford-Levin duet. The next two pieces are also pretty weak, from the Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe album. The magic of Yes returns on track 5 with the popular progressive rock classic ‘Heart of the Sunrise,’ where Levin shows his skill as a bassist. This is followed by the early Yes hit ‘Roundabout’ and the classic ‘Starship Trooper.’ The album ends with the AOR song ‘Order of the Universe.’

In addition to Tony Levin, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe were supported by keyboardist Julian Colbeck and guitarist Milton McDonald.

The DVD contains interesting black and white scenes of the musicians backstage and rehearsing. The video was shot by keyboardist Julian Colbeck.

The booklet includes fascinating collection of photographs, biographies, liner notes and various Roger Dean designs.

Live at the NEC Oct 24th 1989 is a great opportunity to listen to live versions of Yes classics performed in the late 1980s by an unconventional line-up.

Available from http://www.gonzomultimedia.com.

The Heavy Soul Sessions

Djam Karet – The Heavy Soul Sessions
Djam Karet

The Heavy Soul Sessions (Djam Karet HC 015, 2010)

The Heavy Soul Sessions is the most recent album by legendary American progressive rock band Djam Karet. The album reflects the most recent material and current lineup of the band.

Even though the album was recorded in a studio, it is envisioned as a Live-In-Studio recording, without overdubs. Djam Karet has been around for over 25 years and their music is hard to categorize. At times they venture into energetic twin guitar interactions and excellent keyboards (including the beloved mellotron) with a powerful rhythm section. At other times, they sound like classic symphonic rock, and then they also venture into outer space, exploring ambient and space rock. You’ll find all of this in The Heavy Soul Sessions.

The line-up during the recording featured Gayle Ellett on organ, analog synth, mellotron, digital synths; Mike Henderson on electric guitars, ebow and effects; Aaron Kenyon on electric 5-string bass and effects; Mike Murray on electric guitars, ebow and effects; and Chuck Oken, jr. on drums, altered voices.

The Heavy Soul Sessions is an excellent introduction to the music of one of the most interesting and eclectic American progressive rock bands. Djam Karet treats the listener to prog jams, impressive crescendos, skilled musicianship and peaceful meditative ambient music as well.

Buy The Heavy Soul Sessions

The Ultimate Teaser

Tommy Bolin – The Ultimate Teaser
Tommy Bolin

The Ultimate Teaser (Samson Records/429 Records FTN17894, 2012)

This new three CD collection produced by Greg Hampton and Johnnie Bolin presents the impressive electric guitar work of Tommy Bolin. He was one of the best rock guitarists of the early 1970s. Unfortunately, his career didn’t last very long. He died in 1976.

Teaser is a classic rock album that showcased Bolin’s talent and which is now available in remastered format. Bolin played guitar and vocals in the album and had an impressive cast of session musicians, including renowned jazz saxophonist David Sanborn; keyboardist Jan Hammer; Peter Frampton’s bassist Stanley Sheldon, Phil Collins of Genesis on drums; Latin percussion master Sammy Figueroa, the late Jeff Porcaro of Toto on drums and many more.

Although the original Teaser is essentially a rock album with radio-oriented songs, Tommy Bolin spiced the album with superb electric guitar solos and some pieces out of the norm like the jazz-rock fusion instrumental ‘Marching Powder.’

The best material, however, appears on the extra CDs. Disc 2 contains an alternate rocking version of the title track ‘Teaser’ with more solo guitar work that the original version.

The lengthy ‘Flying Fingers’ is jazz-rock fusion at its best, fusing rock, funk and jazz. It’s followed by another fusion jam piece titled ‘Cookoo.’ Then there is another rocker, an algternate version of ‘Wild Dogs.’ Disc 2 ends with tasteful instrumental blues and jazz piece titled ‘Chameleon.’

Disc 3 begins with more fine fusion on ‘Crazed Fandango,’ featuring solos by David Sanborn on sax and Tommy Bolin on guitar. After that, it’s an alternate version of rock song ‘People, People.’ The fusion returns with ‘Smooth Fandango,” Don’t let the title fool you, this is fiery fusion, not smooth jazz.

An alternate version of ‘Marching Powder’ appears on Disc 3. The Ultimate Teaser ends with an alternate version of the rock song ‘Homeward Strut’ and the instrumental piece ‘Oriental Sky’ which has elements of hard rock and progressive rock.

Tommy Bolin was an outstanding guitarist who mastered many genres, including rock, fusion, funk, reggae and hard rock. He played with the legendary rock bands The James Gang and Deep Purple, and Billy Cobham’s “Spectrum” fusion.

Along with the 3 CD set, 429 Records will release a 5 CD set, “The Definitive Teaser Collector’s Edition” that also includes the 2 CD Deluxe version of Great Gypsy Soul–a collection of Bolin songs recorded by a top notch roster of players who signed on to pay tribute to Bolin. Guests include Peter Frampton, Warren Haynes (a key supporter of the project), Nels Cline, Steve Lukather, Steve Morse, Brad Whitford, Joe Bonamassa, John Scofield, Derek Trucks, Glenn Hughes and Myles Kennedy.

Buy The Ultimate Teaser or The Definitive Teaser Collector’s Edition.