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 Updated: 7/02/14 | © 1999 - 2014 Cool Bunny Media | Da Cool Bunny sez 'Spank that Plank, Baby!'
 
#10

Blondie - Greatest Hits: Sight & Sound
(EMI 3450542)

Blondie - Greatest Hits

Blondie have long since ascended to the rank of Rock Greats, and this new compilation is the latest in a long line over the years. The main reason to buy this version is the inclusion of the bands most recent hits since reforming, Maria and Good Boys, plus the inclusion of a DVD in the package which collects together all the promo videos for their singles. For the price of a single CD you have arguably the complete guide to what made Blondie so great back in the late 70s and early 80s. Unlike the previous compilation that I have which also included Deborah Harry's solo hits, this CD is 100% pure Blondie - from X Offender to Good Boys. You already know whether you like Blondie's music, this is the ultimate package of Sound and Vision and should be in every pop fans' collection.

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Alan Rosenthal - Just Sayin'

This is a Jazz piano trio with a strong improvisational remit. All but one of the nine tracks are composed by pianist Alan Rosenthal, but he has ensured enough space within each track for the other musicians in the trio to make their mark. Those musicians are: Cameron Brown - bass and Steve Jones - drums, and both men create some quite muscular rhythms throughout the album. There is a strong post-bop feeling to the music on Just Sayin', it has a vibrancy and urgency that makes it very unique. Some of the tracks such as Three Wheeler have a louche insouciance to them, a free rollin' humour that slips in the ear quite well. I have to admit that I didn't care much for the opening track Gimme Some, its on-off start-stop structure was irritating to me, but perhaps other listeners will see the charm in it. Alan Rosenthal is an inventive pianist and composer, his music makes you sit forward and listen as his hands fly over the keyboard. The nine tracks are: Gimme Some, Sun Aft, Three Wheeler, Nocturne, Loco Motion, Red Red Robin [by Harry Woods], Little Spring, Time The Traitor, Somewhere In The Middle. Just Sayin' is quite an impressive album, punchy in sound and style, it is certainly not bland. Mr Rosenthal is a dynamic pianist and his compositions stretch the piano to new limits of musicality.

For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.facebook.com/a.rosenthal.piano

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Phil Wilson & Makoto Ozone - Live
(Capri Records 71004-2)

Subtitled "at the Berklee performance center", this live album by pianist Makoto Ozone and trombonist Phil Wilson was recorded way back in 1982, when the musicians were musical student and teacher respectively. I'm not sure exactly why it has taken nearly twenty-five years for this to be re-released onto CD, but it is an interesting document for students of jazz. Indeed, I assume this concert was something of a 'final exam' for student Makato Ozone, and from the audience reaction to the performance he probably received an A* for it. The jazz here is extremely muscular, piano and trombone weaving and reacting to each other on every track. The album is heavy on improvisation, and to be honest wasn't really to my taste, but there is no doubt that the two musicians and the audience were flying together throughout. The album contains six tracks: Stella By Starlight, Here's That Rainy Day, Gravy Waltz, These Are The Days, Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave To Me, and Giant Steps. While the improvisational skills of these musicians rather lost me I am sure that the jazz fans who like a lot of improv in their music will enjoy this album a lot and they should visit the Capri records website [live link listed below] and try any sample tracks there and then order with confidence.

For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.caprirecords.com

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Jeffrey Fisher - Satyagraha
(Two Birds Flying TBF 8889)

Subtitled 'Songs Of The Earth', this new instrumental album by multi-instrumentalist Jeffrey Fisher has a strong spiritual feel to it. This is enhanced most notably by using a bass violin [or what we Brits call a bowed double bass] on every track. This album is, of course, New Age in terms of marketing, and aimed specifically at those who use music for meditation purposes. Satyagraha is an Indian word used by Gandhi and means 'the power of truth', and became his banner for non-violent resistance. It is also the name of Jeffrey Fisher's recording studio and retreat in the San Jacinto Mountains. The double bass, or bass violin, is usually an instrument for creating the rhythm in music, here it is used as a lead instrument and when played by a bow it creates a deep, rather mournful sound. It is certainly an atmospheric sound, not unlike whale song in some instances. The album contains eight tracks, with two tracks, Coyote Dreams and Tai Chi, being lengthy soundscapes lasting nearly twenty and fifteen minutes respectively. As you would expect with music for meditation this is very laid back and minimalistic. It wouldn't be too much of a step to call this modern classical music. I can't, in all honesty, say that I found this music very appealing, but I am probably not its target audience. It is wonderfully performed and recorded, but not really for me. If you are seeking music to meditate to then I suggest you visit the link below and sample any tracks there.

For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.healingmusicofthesouthwest.com

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Paul Avgerinos -
Phos Hilaron

[Round Sky Music 1009]

Over the years as editor of this web site I have received a lot of review CDs purporting to be 'new age' and 'spiritual' music but more often than not the results are, to my ears, pseudo soft jazz with a bit of ethnic colour. Well, Phos Hilaron, by Paul Avgerinos, claims to be spiritual and devotional and guess what? It is - this is the real deal. Mr Avgerinos has explored right back to the very early days of Christianity [2nd and 3rd centuries] and discovered a number of original hymns and devotional texts written by the first or second wave of Christian followers. These texts are in ancient Greek or Latin, and are sung as chants similar to those you hear sung by Benedictine and Gregorian monks. To these texts Mr Avgerinos has set gentle electronic soundscapes, providing impetus for the chants, and making them easier on the modern ear. What makes these recordings special is the way Mr Avgerinos has multi-tracked his voice into becoming the beautiful sounding choir! This really has to be heard to be believed, and backed by his own multi-instrumental talents and those of his fellow musicians he has created a very special album which will bear repeated playing. I don't consider myself a Christian or even spiritual [call it British obstinacy, if you will!] but I have found myself using this album to cut down on stress and just for relaxing, and it works very well for that purpose as well - but if you do follow a religion I think you will draw even more from it. This album is highly rated.

For more information and details of how to get this album go to www.roundskymusic.com

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Anne Trenning -
All One World

[Shadetree Records 26391]

This is an album for those moments of reflection that we all need in this increasingly hectic world. The remit is a simple one, create an album of instrumental music that is perfect for the start or the end of the day when we either need motivation to face the day or the calm to reflect on what has happened during the day. Anne Trenning is a spirited pianist and composer who writes such music. The music on All One World has more life in it than the usual spiritual albums I have heard - indeed, it is almost a folk album as many of the tunes have a strong Irish Celtic feel to them and are probably inspired by the music of Ireland. Certainly, some of the tracks have a ceilidh feel to them as they have a lively backing of fiddles and flutes. Albums such as this are undervalued by many who ignore the stress relieving benefits music like this can have. The bottom line is that All One World is a thoroughly listenable and pleasant album that should be heard by as many people as possible.

For more information on this artist go to www.annetrenning.com

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David Boswell -
Bridge Of Art

[My Quiet Moon Records MQMJAZZ-6101]

It isn't often that an album of jazz instrumentals is inspired by a footbridge across a highway in Los Gatos, California, where the local school children have been allowed to illustrate the side panels with their paintings. Guitarist David Boswell has taken this inspiration and created a set of ten tracks full of instrumental colour and fire, and yes, a hatful of melodies as well. My experience of jazz guitarists is a bit limited but I think if you like Pat Metheny then you will most definitely enjoy this album. There are times, on tracks such as Take Me Away, where the guitar is low key and the music becomes more atmospheric and reflective. This is one of those albums which is quietly funky in places and wistful in others, and all the more enjoyable for that. This is an album I shall return to for pleasure.

For availability go to www.myquietmoon.com, plus you can buy it from www.amazon.com and www.cdbaby.com.

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Jim Wilson - A Place In My Heart
(Artemis Nashville 51707)

Another new instrumentalist that plays new age or 'jazz lite' stylings - take your pick, though to me it sounds like what we used to call easy listening. And it is very, very easy listening indeed: piano,strings and flute, with a smattering of latin and celtic flavouring. From the press kit it appears that Jim Wilson has been around quite some time and released several albums in the USA, but he is unknown here in the UK, which is a shame as A Place In My Heart is a fine album, excellent for chilling out to, or unwinding after a heavy day at the treadmill. All the compositions are originals and exhibit what us older types call a good tune. The tracks are all tributes to people and places that the musician has experienced during his life, which of course will only mean something to those people, but Jim Wilson has a mellifluous touch on the keys and this album is recommended to those needing some calm and beauty in their lives.

To check out more about Jim Wilson and the availability of this album go to www.jimwilson.net, but I expect a search on Amazon.Com or Amazon.uk will equally be helpful.

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Lulu - Back On Track
(Mercury 9866136)

Well, well, well. It's been a long time since Lulu has sounded this raunchy on record. After what seems a lifetime of being stuck in television light entertainment hell [Saturday night game shows and AbFab guest slots] the girl has broken free and recorded a cracker of an album. It rocks, it rolls, it's got soul and she's never, ever, sounded this good before.

Lulu - Back On TrackMaking a stab for the Queen of Rock crown once worn by Tina Turner, Lulu has written many of the songs on the album and found a clutch of songs by other writers that suit her voice and new-found style. It includes the singles Keep Talking... I'm Listening, Where the Poor Boys Dance, and Supernatural.

I've always had a sneaking regard for Lulu - and that goes right back to Shout! - but she's never really managed to break free from her 60s pop princess image until now. This album must feel like a rebirth for her as she becomes a rock and soul diva. This album is about rejuvination and it sounds like she had a ball getting there. The collection of soulful ballads and rockier songs mix well and there isn't really a bad song here, though the three songs previously listed are the best songs in my opinion.

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Steeleye Span - They Called Her Babylon
(Park PRKCD70)

For many, including myself, Steeleye Span has never seemed complete if it doesn't include Maddy Pryor in its line-up. Thankfully she has returned to the fold after several years and many excellent solo albums, and what a cracker of an album the reunited band have made. The band sound rejuvinated and more focused than for a while.

The album opens with Van Diemen's Land, a story of transportation to Australia, where even a short sentence was a one way ticket from England. The track that follows, Samain, explores the legend of Halloween to a gently chugging Status Quo rhythm. Heir Of Linne is one of Maddy Pryor's signature historical ballads, a mid-paced study of lost love and fall into darkness. And so it goes on... more songs dissecting the dark history of this fair old land. And another excellent album by a band that is surely undervalued by any measure you care to use.

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Julie Lavender - Never Felt The Sun
(Covenant Records 122201-02)

Julie Lavender is a classically trained guitarist and singer/ songwriter and this is her second album showcasing mostly her own songs. The style is a cross between classical and smooth jazz, with a little latin flavouring, aided by her extremely honeyed soprano voice which I have to say is very easy on the ear indeed. The album is well produced, the musicianship high quality all the way - jazz flautist Hubert Laws guests on several tracks - and if you like Joni Mitchell and Sting's jazzier efforts then this should do the business for you. The theme of the album is life and experiencing it to the full, so the songs embrace the whole gamut of emotions. I particularly like Tin Man, a nod to the character in The Wizard of Oz, and Never Felt the Sun, but there aren't really any bad tracks to skip by, this a very mellifluous album.

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Shad Weathersby - Chomp Chomp
(Singing Rock Records SR1221)

This album by singer/songwriter Shad Weathersby is unashamedly for the kids - and the younger age groups at that. I guess it is fair to say that the songs are reminiscent in style and content to the stuff you would see and hear on Sesame Street and the BBC's Playschool. The content of the songs are life affirming, educational and just plain fun, and the artist and his junior co-singers sound as if they are having a gas while recording the album. Song titles pretty much explain the songs: Calendar Song, Together, Yellow, Big Big World, In My Room, Elephant Jones etc. Being a bit of a rocker and having no kids to play this to, I can't say how successful an album it is, but it wins points with me for being bright and lacking in that sacherine bullshit that Disney think is what kids want to hear. If you are under ten years old I think you will like this.

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Barbara Markay - Shambhala Dance
(My Thing Music MTM22)

Although listed on the inlay cover as New Age, this has to be one of the funkiest new age albums I've heard in a long time. In fact it sounds to me like Barbara Markay has trawled across the world, picking out her favourite bits from a variety of different types of ethnic music and mixed them together into something that is undeniably friendly on the ear. Very much a similar vibe to what the Afro Celt Sound System have been doing. The album opens with Atlantis, a shimmering selection of worldbeats, violin, piano and warm-toned guitar [by Tim May] that settle into a nice seven minute long groove. Track two, Metamorphosis, has a more afro/indian feel plus some very tasty flamenco style guitar work by Albert de Almar. Message From Morpheus is a more electro-ambient piece, also hitting a groove as well as James Brown can. The arabic feel continues on Your Fire, which also features vocals by Ms Markay. And so the album continues with its mix of worldbeats, ethnic sounds and an ability to be funky, groovy and meditative all at the same time. The ideal album to play in the car while on the way to Glastonbury or Womad this summer.

For availability check out the label's website: www.mythingmusic.com

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Shawn Maxwell - Originals

Shawn Maxwell is a popular jazz musician and band leader gigging in the Chicago area and this is his latest album. As my tastes in jazz are more blues and big band swing-based you'll have to forgive me if I fail to accurately describe which sub genre of jazz he is performing here on his new CD. To my ears the style sounds like mid period Miles Davis from the early 60s - but jazz is now such an ever-shifting collection of different playing styles it is easy to become confused. What I can tell you is that Maxwell utilises a conventional quartet and quintet format, his sax, clarinet and flute performances backed by piano, bass and drums with guitar and trombone added on some tracks. All ten tracks feature Maxwell's own compositions, and if you like your jazz 'cool' then this is most certainly for you.

For more information on this album and how to order it go to www.shawnmaxwell.com

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Elise Lebec - Possible Dreams
(Lebec Entertainment Ltd LECD 41324)

Subtitled "Impressions for Solo Piano", this collection of instrumentals for acoustic piano is labelled New Age on the back of the inlay card, though to my ears it could equally be identified as modern classical if the titles were replaced with opus numbers. With track titles such as Before Awakening, A Drive Through Sunflowers, Moonlight Dance, the music on this CD [all composed by Eleise Lebec] is highly impressionistic, reminiscent of 20th century classical composers, rather than the usual bland stuff that most New Age recordings offer. Elise Lebec is a pianist and composer of subtle talents, and the fourteen tracks on this CD provide a whole pallette of musical colours and emotions that should appeal to anyone who is an aficionado of the piano.

For more information on this album and how to order it go to www.eliselebec.com

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Eric & Susan Davis - Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep: An Album of Classical Lullabies [Verdict Records]

Well, the title of this album couldn't be any more clearer as to what to expect. This is indeed a collection of lullabies drawn mostly from the classical canon, played with a light touch on guitar and violin by husband and wife Eric and Susan Davis. The instrumentals are drawn from composers such as Brahms, Schumann, Gershwin, Grieg, De Fall, Von Weber, Von Weber, Mendelsohn and a lovely version of Hushabye Mountain from the musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. There's not really much more one can add to this, the performances are uniformly excellent and the audio quality is crystal clear, the instruments mellifluous to the max. Not being a parent I can't say how effective these fourteen tracks are in sending a noisy little one to sleep, but if you are stressed out it might work for you.

For more information on this album and how to order it go to www.verductentertainment.com and www.childmusiconline.com

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Paul Avgerinos - Gnosis [Roundskymusic.com]

A sequel to the excellent Phos Hilaron, Gnosis is a slightly less choral sounding album but none the less an exciting new album in itself. I guess you could describe the music within as a mixture of ambient, new age and world music genres - if you are a fan of any one of these genres then you will certainly find much to entertain you here. As before the tracks have a spiritual feeling to them, but are equally suitable for chilling out to or recharging the batteries after a stressful day. The mixture of ancient Greek chants and oriental and middle eastern instruments offer a timeless aura that is surprisingly effective - the end of the album comes as a bit of a jolt! I have to admit that being a bit of a blunt Brit track titles such as Follow Your Bliss and We Are One sound a little twee [we British aren't one for going blissful - we make do with a nice cup of tea!] but the music is excellent and if you are a devotee of new age or ambient music then I strongly suggest you check out Paul Avgerinos and his music.

For more information on this album and how to order it go to www.roundskymusic.com

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Antoinette Montague - Pretty Blues
[CAP1003]

This is the debut album by jazz singer Antoinette Montague, and pretty impressive it is, too. The lady has a gutsy voice that can belt out a blues or whisper a love song. And she has compiled a superb collection of songs by Joe Williams [Pretty Blue], Irving Berlin [From This Moment On, Blue Skies, How Deep Is The Ocean], Harry Warren [At Last], Sammy Cahn [Teach Me Tonight], Cy Coleman [Why Try To Change Me Now] and many others. Backed by a very supportive jazz quartet, these are intimate performances aimed directly at the soul of the listener. It is so encouraging to see that despite the perceived wisdom by those who know these things that jazz is a dying musical genre it is in fact quite alive and healthy - indeed, it seems to be thriving. I know this from the number of jazz albums received here at the Borderland for review, and Ms Montague is the latest musician to prove that jazz and the great American songbook still has a lot of life left in it.

For more information on this album and how to order it go to www.antoinettemontague.com

Leslie Lewis With the Gerard Hagen Trio - Midnight Sun
(Surf Cove Jazz SCJ102)

Leslie Lewis With the Gerard Hagen Trio - Midnight SunWhen it comes to jazz vocals there is nothing more intimate and direct than a vocalist with a trio or quartet backing. That is the case here with vocalist Leslie Lewis and her new album Midnight Sun. The nine tracks consist of a mixture of songs by jazz and pop composers, and these disparate sources bed in together nicely thanks to the musicianship of the Gerard Hagen Trio, who offer just the right amount of smooth jazz backing to make this a very pleasurable album to listen to. The trio is Gerard Hagen - piano, Domenic Genova - bass, Jerry Kalaf - drums, with guests Chuck Manning and Joey Sellers on tenor sax and trombone respectively. With composers of the calibre of Lionel Hampton, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, Burt Bacharach, Paul McCartney, George Gershwin and Rodgers & Hart on the album mixed with the wondrous voice of Ms Lewis and you have something very special indeed. Leslie Lewis's voice seems to span several octaves and she can go from a growl to soaring heights within the same breath. And yet at all times, her voice is full of emotion and making that connection with the listener. She so effortlessly outclasses most of the so-called pop divas you wonder why one of the major labels hasn't signed her up. The nine tracks are: Love Me Or Leave Me, Midnight Sun, It's All right With Me, A House Is Not A Home, Lover Come Back To Me, My Love, I Believe In You, The Man I Love, Where Or When. Midnight Sun is that rare artefact, a near perfect vocal jazz album, and if you are still listening to Ella, Sarah and Dinah might I recommend that you add Leslie to that canon and listen to Midnight Sun. Highly Recommended.

For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.surfcovejazz.com

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Carter Calvert & the Roger Cohen Trio

Carter Calvert & the Roger Cohen TrioNow here is a gal whose voice isn't going to be lost in the ether. Carter Calvert is a singer with an 'upfront' voice that floats and soars over the instrumentation on this her debut album. This is a singer who can fill the auditorium with her unamplified voice. Carter Calvert is a collection of thirteen tracks - a baker's dozen of the best pop, jazz and American songbook hits. All performed with a sizzle and a relish for the lyrics. Supported by the equally versatile Roger Cohen Trio, the album is both subtly intimate and yet it fills the speakers' soundstage with ease. With husband Roger Cohen on drums, Jim West on piano and Brian Glassman on bass, Ms Calvert makes songs by a quite respectable bunch of songwriters her very own: Richard Rodgers, Stephen Sondheim, Willie Nelson, Cyndi Lauper, Peter Gabriel and Andrew Lloyd Webber. With a mixture of clear diction and total immersion within the song, she treats every performance here with equal aplomb and perhaps a little humour too. The thirteen tracks are: The Best Is Yet To Come, Fever, Bewitched Bothered & Bewildered, You Belong To Me, Not While I'm Around, Crazy, What A Little Moonlight Can Do, Send In The Clowns, Please Don't Stop Him, Time After Time, Memory, Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child, Washing Of The Water. I was reminded of singer Elaine Paige while listening to this album, Ms Calvert can do the pop/jazz/musical crossover with equal aplomb. Recommended.

For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.cartercalvert.com

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Gene Ess - A Thousand Summers
(Simp Records SIMP 111215)

Gene Ess - A Thousand SummersSubtitled 'Featuring Nicki Parrott', A Thousand Summers is a collection of duets between the guitar of Gene Ess and the rather tasty and mellow vocals of Ms Parrott. The album contains ten tracks, a selection of Jazz and American Songbook classics and the odd hidden gem. Composers include: Rodgers & Hart, Joe Sample & Will Jennings [of the Crusaders], Cole Porter, Henry Mancini & Johnny Mercer, Gordon Jenkins, Michel LeGrand. A pretty impressive selection of songwriters, all given a contemporary smooth jazz upgrade, with Mr Ess's guitar providing some impressive if understated solos. Ms Parrott, meanwhile, has one of those slightly laid-back, whimsical voices, very mellow and just a little 'out there'. Very tasty. And then there is the trio of musicians supporting Mr Ess and Ms Parrott - James Weidman - piano, Thomson Kneeland - bass, and Gene Jackson - drums. They provide ample and able support, filling out the sound so that the album sounds just right. The ten tracks are: I Didn't Know What Time It Was, One Day I'll Fly Away, So In Love, The Old Country, Charade, East Of The Sun, Looking Back (Reflections), All Or Nothing At All, Goodbye, I Will Wait For You. A Thousand Summers is about as good a pop-jazz album as you will find - it is musically rich yet very accessible to those who will deny they like any sort of Jazz. Ms Parrott's voice and Gene Ess's guitar are a marriage of positive convenience that works very well and I recommend this album to anyone who enjoys melodic Jazz.

For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.jazzgenemusic.com

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Katie Guthorn - Why Not Smile

Katie Guthorn is a versatile singer, as known for her Motown and R'n'B sessions at various San Francisco coffee shops, and for starring in a Karen Carpenter tribute musical, and now she has turned to Jazz and made an album with a mix of contemporary rock songs in the jazz idiom and some Jazz classics as well. Backed by a quartet the sound is rich and surprisingly muscular for just four musicians - they fill the soundstage between the speakers with a big sound. They are: Tim Haggerty - bass/keyboard/producer/arranger, Terry Haggerty - guitar, Aaron Haggerty - drums, Armen Boyd - tenor sax. Dipping into the songbooks of Ben Folds, REM, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Tony Hatch, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, and Rodgers & Hart, the dozen tracks are: Call Me, The Luckiest, Prelude To A Kiss, Black Crow, Lush Life, Where Or When, Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans, Rainbow Connection, You Don't Know Me, I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good), Overjoyed, Why Not Smile/Smile. Ms Guthorn has a warm-tinged voice, yet she can express the emotions of the lyrics with clarity and a close affinity to the sentiment of the lyric. Why Not Smile is an impressively good album, with great performances from vocalist and band. It deserves to take off.

For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.katieg.org

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Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra
- Swinging The Blues Dancing The Ska

(Radar/WSM RADAR006CD)

Every year, regular as clockwork, Jools Holland releases a new album of music to coincide with his autumn/winter tours. It sounds like a bit of a grind for most musicians but for Holland's fans it is a date in the diary to look forward to. Last year we had the superlative collaborative album with a rejuvinated [and recently knighted] Tom Jones - this year Jools Holland has regrouped with his big band and regular singers Sam Brown, Ruby Turner and guest performers Beverly Knight and the legendary Solomon Burke. As the album title describes the mix of blues and big band tunes and a dash of reggae/ska rhythms is a joyous blending of old classic tunes and new songs. For those who see Jools' gig every year there are also a few concert faves such as Double O Boogie, Dancing Mood and Blowin' in the Wind. Solomon Burke provides a roaring version of his Everybody Needs Somebody To Love [best known from the Blues Brother movie], and Sam Brown belts out Juice Head Blues like a good 'un. The bedrock of the album, of course, is the Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, surely every bit as good as any band Count Basie or Lionel Hampton ever had, capable of intimate blues one moment and a rip-roaring blast of of r&b the next. Swinging The Blues Dancing The Ska is a damn fine album, equally good for parties or simply lifting the spirits after the christmas shopping. Buy it and dive in!

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David Mauk - Ground Swell
(Thera Records 101-2365)

David mauk - Ground SwellThese days one looks dubiously on concept albums, they seem to have become passé. But Ground Swell, by multi-keyboard musician, is a little different, it is an instrumental album containing fourteen compositions and 5 videos inspired by the art of Edward Hopper. Now I have to admit that I have never heard of this painter - perhaps his work has not travelled this far west of London. Anyway, it is an interesting idea spread over an audio CD and an accompanying DVD. Not being aware of the artist's work I can only judge the music as music, and on that basis this is a corker of an album. Depending on your viewpoint it is either New Age, Ambient or Electronica, or a miscellany of all three musical genres. The music is predominantly electronic, with piano as the lead instrument, and at times listening to the album I was reminded strongly of Tangerine Dream in their late 80s period, but there are equally elements of Vangelis and Jarre in there. While eschewing dance beats the music is mostly upbeat with huge catchy tunes - I defy anyone after listening to Summertime not to be whistling it later. The same equally applies to Chop Suey and I think the music is extremely evocative of an earlier times - this is plainly obvious when watching the DVD movies. The accompanying DVD contains 5 videos of old black and white newsreel and archive footage filmed around New York [I think] in the period that Hopper was active as a painter. It does seem a shame that a slideshow of his works weren't included to give the uninitiated some idea of why this artist has inspired David Mauk so much. But I guess the 'rights' issues were insurmountable. I really loved this album, it is full of melody and mood, Mr Mauk is an excellent composer and musician, having created an album that works whether you appreciate the concept or just enjoy the tunes. Every track is never less than listenable and some stick in the memory for a long time - the mark of good music in my book. I hope to hear more of this musician in the future. I rank this as one of my albums of the year for 2010 - it's that bloody good.

For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.davidmauk.com

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Gunnar Madsen - Two Hands
(G Spot Records GSR007)

This is Gunnar Madsen's eighteenth album, quite an achievement for any musician. Two Hands focusses on Mr Madsen's piano compositions and playing, it is an album of sixteen tracks, each one a small 'miniature' of melody and mood. Indeed, Two Hands is a collection of descriptive pieces of music suitable for programming as a soundtrack - which is one of Mr Madsen's day jobs, providing soundtrack music for movies and TV shows, plus dance scores. Accompanied on some tracks by the violin performed by Irene Sazer, these tracks also fit into the 'new age' category, and yes, in my book they should also be considered to be classical music or on tracks like Kerenyi even world music thanks to the Arabic sounding violin. I think Two Hands is a bit of a chameleon, it is whatever you want it to be and that is due to the superb performances, the restraint and delicacy of the music. The tracks have evocative titles such as: Break Into Blossom, In These Lonely Regions, Nino And Me, Red Bird, Oak Sky, The Blackbird Whistling and Frank Grows Flowers. The overriding impression I have in my 'mind's eye' while listening to this music is of old sepia-toned newsreel movie footage, scenes that are both rustic and rusty... Two Hands is a most attractive album, restful and soothing if you wish it to be, but if you have the imagination it can be the soundtrack to many more things. Recommended.

For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.gunnarmadsen.com

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Adam Schroeder - A Handful Of Stars
(Capri 74103-2)

While the sound of the saxophone is a staple of jazz and at times a cliché [depending on how it is played], the baritone sax is less well known or used, and its deeper tones and muscular sounds make for a welcome alternative. And that is what you will find on Adam Schroeder's new album, A Handful Of Stars. Utilising the traditional quartet format, Mr Schroeder is backed up by Jeff Hamilton on drums, John Clayton on bass and Graham Dechter on guitar - a trio of musicians who swing most elegantly and in sympathy with that big baritone sax. Thankfully, the musicians eschew post-bop stylings and go for something more attuned to full frontal musicality. Mr Schroeder contributes a couple of his tunes, a spritely Midwest Mash and a nocturnal Hidden Within. The rest of the eleven tracks are drawn from the great jazz songbook: Pensive Miss, Jessica's Birthday, I Happen To Be Love, Just In Time, Nascimento, A Handful Of Stars, It's All Right With Me and Just Sittin' & Rockin'. The combined talents of Neal Hefti, Cole Porter, Jules Styne, Duke Ellington and Quincy Jones shine through. The abiding impression I had listening to this album was that the ghost of Count Basie must have been at this session - it has something of his stillness to the overall feel. I think A Handful Of Stars is an exemplary album - great musicianship, good taste in the tune selection and good vibes coming out of the speakers. Can a jazz fan want any more than that [answers on a postcard to...]. Highly recommended

For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.adamschroedermusic.com

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Herb Eimerman - Just Barely Famous
[Under The Dome UTD262418]

This is one of those albums created by a 'one man band', Herb Eimerman, with just a little help from a few friends. And it is a pop-rock gem - sixteen sharp pop-rock songs hewn out from a powerpop template. Think the Byrds, the Knack, the Cars, perhaps a smidgen of early Joe Jackson... and of course The Spongetones. Herb Eimerman has written all the songs on Just Barely Famous, with Swede Stefan Johansson co-writing several, plus there is a good cover version of George Harrison's Stuck Inside A Cloud. I haven't really heard this album enough yet to pick out favourite tracks, it's an album that grows on you - one that if it clicks will be on your personal playlist for a long time in the future. It makes a mockery of the current fad of iTunes downloading where you reduce an album to just the hit singles and ignore the rest - I'm playing the album while typing this and I haven't heard a track yet that I wouldn't want to hear again several times. This is feelgood music, jangly guitars, bright harmonies and songs with good old fashioned hooks, choruses and hummability. And talking of guitars, the back of the inlay is a photo of a display of tasty looking axes that should make even Eric Clapton's mouth water! It really can't get better than this, Just Barely Famous is on heavy rotation here at the Borderland Post, and not many make it that far!

Just Barely Famous is available from www.jamrecordings.com, www.notlame.com and www.cdbaby.com

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Suzanne Ciani - Silver Ship
(Seventh Wave SWP 7010-2)

When this CD arrived the name of the artist sounded familiar and after a bit of a search through my music collection I found a track by her on a Private Music label compilation album dating back to 1989. The music on that album was electronic, but her new album Silver Ship is acoustic with some electronic backing, but it sounds fairly minimal to me. Apart from one track with vocals the rest of the album is instrumental and again can be categorised as new age or jazz lite - this seems to be a burgeoning area of music, at least from the number of albums received here from review from my USA source. And that is good - I'm at the age where the noise younger artists make has become just that and I am growing to value the art of creating a good tune with atmospheric stylings. Ms Ciani is of Italian stock and the music on this album has been inspired by her travels and her roots in Italy - but I am glad to report that the cliched aspects of what you would call the 'Italianness' of the music is missing. With Ms Ciani playing keyboards and backed by flute, guitar, percussion and cello, the style is intimate and very mellow, and very happy. An album then to uplift the soul and calm the nerves - you can find out more about Suzanne Ciani at www.suzanneciani.com.

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Margie Baker & Friends - Live At the Bach Dancing
& Dynamite Society
(CAP994)

The Lisa Bell album I have reviewed elsewhere may be the new face of jazz in a post millenium setting, but with Margie Baker you get jazz from the classic era, swinging, roaring and bluesy. I'm sure that Ms Baker wouldn't disagree that she is an 'old broad' of pensionable age, but she performs with the vigour and energy of someone far younger. Despite having sung with many of the jazz greats of the 50's and 60s, she has also had a successful career in education administration and has only recently been able to record as a solo performer, and this is her first live album, a double cd recorded at a small private venue amongst her friends, so a party atmosphere is strongly evident across both discs.

Ms Baker tears through a setlist of jazz and blues classics that pretty much encapsulates what jazz is all about: Let The Good Times Roll, Gimme A Pigfoot, Miss Otis Regrets, Goin' To Chicago, Cry Me A River, It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing, Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby are just some of the highlights of the first cd. And she gives the Carpenters' Close To You a near definitive performance. I'll leave you to discover the gems on disc two. She is backed by a sextet of excellent jazz musicians who switch jazz and blues styles in a blink of an eye. It would be unfair not to say that age has diminished Ms Bakers voice a little, but she makes up for that with great style and makes many of these songs her own. If you thought old-school jazz had died then you really should search out this album set for proof that it hasn't.

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Jessie Allen Cooper - Pacific Lounge
(CSW 1054-2)

The music on this album is billed as a hybrid of jazz/new age/world, which is a broad spectrum to cover. This album of twelve duets featuring the soprano sax of Jessie Allen Cooper and the piano of Tim Ponzek contains very little jazz or world elements to my ears. It is, however, a collection of reflective instrumentals that the accompanying publicity claim are perfect for chilling out. I can't disagree with this, but I have to say that the music didn't do a lot for me. The soprano sax is one of my least favourite instruments and the sparcity of the accompaniment just didn't grab my attention. Don't get me wrong, I don't think this album is badly performed or produced, it is a crystal clear recording and the music is well played, but - well, it was just a bit too passive for my tastes. If you have experience of Mr Cooper's music or enjoy new age music then I am sure you will enjoy Pacific Lounge - if you've yet to discover Mr Cooper I suggest you go to www.coopersoundwaves.com and check out the sample audio files there and make up your own mind.

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Lisa Bell - It's All About Love
(Hapi Skratch Records 52442)

Jazz has recently become a popular musical form again lately, or rather a new lighter form that mixes pop and jazz into an easy listening sound - think Norah Jones and Jamie Cullem to hear what I mean. And so this new album by Lisa Bell follows this new template for jazz lite, and very fine it is too. Where Norah Jones has a husky drawl of a voice, Lisa Bell's voice is pure jazz and melody and it's a more traditional jazz 'voice'. It swings and can cover every mood that her [mostly self-written] songs demand - there's even a blues or two that have that 'down home feel'. Her voice is ably backed by a hand picked collection of musicians and backing singers who fit that voice like a glove. If it comes down to nominating showcase tracks then I select It's All About Love, Ain't Divorce Grand, Mary Had A Plan [a witty reworking of Old McDonald Had A Farm] and Here I Am as candidates for my iPod [if I had one!].

One tends to accept recording quality as a given in these days of hi-tech digital sound - but I'd like to pay tribute to the audio engineer on this album who has made this possibly the best vocal album I've heard in a long time - the sound is crystal clear and extremely warm, not often the case with CDs. Call it jazz lite or easy listening or whatever, It's All About Love is easy on the ear and demands a wider release on a major label. This is a voice that deserves to be heard.

More info on Lisa Bell can be found at www.lisabellmusic.com.

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Johnny 'Guitar' Watson - Superman Lover:
The Ultimate Collection

(Sanctuary Midline SMETD008)

Johnny 'Guitar' Watson - Superman Lover:It took a long time for Johnny 'Guitar' Watson to make it big. He started off in the 50's as a spacey blues cowboy, experimenting with outrageous guitar sounds and studio trickery that pre-dated Hendrix by a decade. The world had caught up by the mid-70's, and Watson became an overnight success - his mix of blues, funk, disco licks and superfly musical persona [but with tongue firmly planted in his cheek] fitted the times and he found huge success with hit singles such as I Need It, Ain't That A Bitch, Lover Jones, Funk Beyond The Call Of Duty, It's About The Dollar Bill, Gangster Of Love and many more.

Unlike the funk of James Brown, Prince and Funkadelic/Parliament, Watson's take was much more lighthearted and fun. The licks flying off his fretboard playfully hit the brain and the foot, and even the musos' could appreciate his picking. It was equally at home on the radio or in the disco and you didn't need any chemical additives to have a big smile plastered over your face. Imagine if Huggy Bear from Starsky And Hutch had picked up a guitar to go with his pimpmobile...

And so after falling back into obscurity during the electropop 80's, Watson had begun making a comeback in the mid-90's, only for that to be cut short when he tragically died a few years ago. We now have a triple CD package with 44 tracks of Johnny 'Guitar' Watson to enjoy. I guess you could narrow the classic tracks down to a single CD's worth, but the other album tracks are fun and any of the three albums are likely to lift the spirits. If you've never experienced Johnny 'Guitar' Watson before I can recommend this as the best place to start.

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Albert Lee - That's All Right Mama
(Castle Music CMQCD 800)

It's a well-known fact that folk-rock is a British invention, but country-rock...? Well, perhaps not invented here but certainly pioneered here by guitarist Albert Lee. Though I think it later evolved more into what we now know as pub-rock, the precursor to the new wave of the mid-70s. Anyway, Albert Lee undoubtedly was one of the few British rock musicians putting country and rock elements together back in the late 60s. And that is what this new CD is all about.

Subtitled "The Country Fever & Black Claw Sessions", That's All Right Mama pulls together twenty-seven tracks from sessions for two albums that were never released and a couple of singles that were, back in 1969. The songs are a mix of originals written by Albert Lee and his band, plus the pick of songwriters such as Dylan, Merle Haggard, Neil Diamond, Lee Hazlewood, Arthur Crudup, Robbie Robertson, Chuck Berry and more. I have to admit that many of these tracks sound very much like they are of the late 60s and don't quite gell, but a good half or more of this album has that timeless feel of the classic. And when Lee goes to town on his guitar then it is heaven.

I'm sure that Lee must have been influenced by the folk and country experiments of the Byrds and the Band, but he adds his own finger-picking magic to create something uniquely his own style on these songs. He later went on to take over the guitar spot in Emylou Harris' Hot Band, possibly the best country-rock band ever. So this collection of tracks shows where it all began. The CD comes in a rather nice slipcase and the inlay sheet unfolds into a very good essay on the man and his music with many previously unseen photos. A darn good package and indispensible for the Albert Lee fan.

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Mark Dunn - Return To Peace
(Timeless Jazz Recordings TJR 1001-2)

This album is subtitled "A Celtic journey through Central America", which pretty much sums up the style here. Composer Mark Dunn travelled extensively through Central America several years ago, taking his pennywhistle and using to compose music while on the go. When he returned to his home he took these tunes and orchestrated them for his piano and pennywhistle, added violin, acoustic bass and ethnic percussion from the region and produced this very addictive album. Return To Peace draws heavily on Irish traditional music mixed with the rhythms of Central America - evoking the lands of the Maya, rainforests, volcanos and the spirit of the indians. There's also a bit of jazz and reggae in there as well, which adds spice to the mix. In someone else's hand this could be very twee and new ageish, but I think it transcends that by the sheer tunefulness of the tracks and the strong evocation of the region that they create in the mind. It is very difficult to select tracks to highlight as the entire album is a joy to hear, and the eleven tracks vary a lot from gentle reflective pieces to near dance numbers that should get the feet twitching. If you like the Chieftains and Michael O'Sullivan's orchestral celtic music then you will love this, it's an album that will brighten the gloomiest of days.

For availability check out the label's website: www.markdunnmusic.com

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The Atlantics - Point Zero
(Atlantics Music A-011)

There aren't too many records that grab you by the balls from the first note and refuse to let go until the cd has stopped spinning - well, this is one of those rarities. Yep, Point Zero by Australian band The Atlantics is that album. Imagine, if you will, a band imbued with the twang of the early Shadows, Hank Marvin's finger dexterity, the Ventures surf persona and the speed and 'to the wall' attitude of the Ramones, and you may have some idea of how bloody good this instrumental album is. There are 14 tracks, most are under three minutes long [and those that exceed this limit are only slightly over], of rare classic twanginess and fenderbender magic - not a moment is wasted in filler, every track rocks, and I swear the drummer must be a mutant half-man/half-kangaroo the way he belts the shit out of his drumkit! Beginning with the albums' title track, guitarists Martin Cilia and Jim Skiathis, bassist Bosco Bosanac and drummer Peter Hood never let up on 110% commitment - one can almost hear the XXXX being intravenously fed to the band as they play. Oh yeah, there's also a stonkingly good version of the Hawaii Five-O theme too! This may not be the Beatles or REM, but it is a hell of a lot more fun - buy with confidence.

Check out the band and their music at the following website: www.theatlantics.com

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James E. Wall - Warm Embrace
(King Of Kings Records KOKR 4371)

James E. Wall is a former rap/hip-hop vocalist and keyboardist who has turned his talents away from that style of music and created an album of gentle, soothing music - aka, new age style instrumentals. A somewhat surprising move for a rapper, it must be said. Warm Embrace is a collection of ten instrumental tracks, all performed by Wall who uses computers and synthesisers to create the sounds of all the instruments you can hear on the album. I find most new age style music lacking in edge but this album may be sweet sounding but it draws on James Wall's gospel and r & b roots so there is a gentle funkiness hidden within the sweetness. Albums such as this tend to generate a mood of peaceful relaxation, so highlighting tracks of merit is pretty useless as they all incline towards a generic sameness. But this is a very pleasant album, perhaps a little too sweet for my tastes - if you enjoy instrumental music of the new age genre then I can recommend this to you as a salve for your soul.

To find out more about James E. Wall and his music check out www.kingofkingsrecords.com.

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Ron Kaplan & Weber Iago - Saloon: The Ron Kaplan
& Weber Iago Album

(Kapland Records)

The last few years has seen an upsurge [albeit a gentle one] in vocalists singing in the jazz school - Norah Jones and Jamie Cullum come to mind immediately, thanks to their chart albums. But there are singers who have been championing the 'Great American Songbook' for quite a while, and Ron Kaplan is one of these. This is my first introduction to Mr Kaplan's music and I guess that if you are a fan of the Sinatra school of jazz/easy listening music then you will really enjoy this album. This is a simple album, just the piano accompaniment of Weber Iago and Ron Kaplan's intimate vocals. Recording quality of this album is excellent, both voice and piano are miked so that it seems like the performers are sitting next to you. I assume the album title 'Saloon' refers to the type of vocal style, there is a faint whiff of the karaoke about it, but this is far outwheighed by the sheer style of the performance. The album is relatively short, just nine tracks, but all classic songs by Duke Ellington [I'm Just a Lucky So and So], George Gershwin ['S Wonderful/I Got Rhythm, Nice Work If You Can Get It], Bacharach and David [Alfie], Anthony Newley [Who Can I Turn To] and others. If you are a fan of the classic 'crooners' I think you ought to check this album out, that era isn't dead yet.

To find out more about Ron Kaplan and his music check out www.ronkaplan.com

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Keefe Marzell & Vintage - Drawn Windows
[Vintage Record Label 62874-07914-2]

One of the pleasures of running this website and reviewing the CDs sent to me is that I suddenly discover all these great musicians and composers that might as well have come from the other side of the galaxy. Keefe Marzell is another name unfamiliar to me but is now attracting my ears [in a good way]. Marzel is a drummer with a damn cool band that play smooth jazz, jazz-funk and old type r'n'b - think of the Crusaders [who I adored], Spyra Gyra and Bob James from back in the 70s and you'll have some idea of what I mean. Drawn Windows is a collection of eleven instrumental tracks, some with vocal choruses, but no lead vocalists, as such - apart from New Jazz Swing which includes a couple of rappers. The vibe is upbeat, almost party time, the music smooth and very melodic but funky, the playing excellent. This is an album that is a joy to listen to throughout, it's a mood-setter, something to ease the pain of being stuck in a traffic jam or that soundtrack for the summer barbeque in the garden. Or you can just sit down and enjoy the music without any other distractions.

I'm not sure where you can order this from, try www.vintagerecordlabel.com or www.amazon.com

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Jim Hudak - Bridging Textures
[Brainstorm Records B1005]

I've not come across pianist Jim Hudak before, but his new album Bridging Textures is a welcome introduction to an eclectic musician and composer whose music seems to straddle the whole gamut of popular music styles. Superficially, you could classify this album as New Age, simply because Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman has produced it, but there is much more going on here. Some of the tracks have a classical element, others a bluesy boogie woogie feel, not a million miles from that of Jools Holland, and other tracks give off a strong jazz vibe. But the overall vibe is of musicality and relaxation. You could slow waltz to some of these tracks but that is about it - in modern slang this is music to chill to [preferably with a nice glass or two of wine]. The heart of the recording is Jim Hudak's nine foot Yamaha concert grand piano, which is sympathetically accompanied by combinations of violin, bass, sax, squeezebox and guitar across the set of fourteen tracks, all played by a group of excellent musicians with classy pedigrees listed in the press sheet that I don't have space here to reproduce. So, fourteen tracks of impeccably played instrumentals, suitable for relaxing, driving or that important dinner party.

You can find out more about Jim Hudak on www.jimhudak.com, and order this cd from www.amazon.com and www.cdbaby.com

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Ron Kaplan - Lounging Around [Kapland Records]

This is the second Ron Kaplan album received here and it acts as a companion to Saloon. Once again we have an exemplary selection of songs from the Great American Songbook performed with a small jazz band in an intimate setting. Kaplan has one of those warm as treacle voices which can take any one of these nine songs make it seem like a direct communication to you. Some of the highlights include Cry Me A River, Just One Of Those Things, Caravan, What A Wonderful World and I Surrender Dear, but there are no bad tracks here. Ably backed by Larry Scala on guitar, Guiseppe Merolla on Drums and Perry Thoorsell on bass [plus guests on some of the tracks], this is a leisurely paced album suited to chilling out with a glass of wine or beer, preferably with the lover of choice snuggling in your arms.

For more information on this album and how to order it go to www.ronkaplan.com

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Gerry Gibbs & The Thrasher Big Band - Live At Luna
[Whaling City Sound WCS033]

Gerry Gibbs & The Thrasher Big Band - Live At LunaAs a music lover I tend to give every CD that arrives here for review the benefit of the doubt and can usually find good music in every genre. But I do have a love for old fashioned big bands that roar and blow and swing like a banshee! And so the Gerry Gibbs album was like manna from heaven - his Thrasher Big Band blow like hell and can be soft as satin on the slower numbers. We have ten tracks, some of them over ten minutes long, a mixture of Gibbs own music and that of his father jazz vet Terry Gibbs, and Randy Becker, Herbie Hancock and others. Recorded live in front of a very appreciative audience the band swing like the giants of jazz but also add bebop and some world music elements to bring the sound up to date. Special mention must go to Joan Carroll for her vocals on three of the tracks, adding lustre to them. Recorded at a club called Luna in San Antonio, Texas [I think] this is the best setting to hear a big band - the engineer has captured the ambience and the vibe excellently. If you hanker after the classic big bands of yore [Basie, Ellington, Gillespie] then you will love this and have the same big soppy smile plastered across your face as I did once the CD finished. Highly recommended to make your day.

More info and ordering details from www.whalingcitysound.com and www.thasherband.com

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