Monday, December 24, 2012

REVIEW: KingBathmat - Truth Button (2013)

From the ominous looking logo to the gorgeous, yet heavy psychedelia that characterizes their core sound, KingBathmat are as good a heir to the early 70's heavy metal throne as any contemporary group I've had the pleasure of knowing in the past: think Black Sabbath colliding with the pop sensibilities of a group like Jellyfish or ELO with the force of a cannon fired, tabasco-studded enchilada. The result is delicious, messy and glorious all at once. 'Dives And Pauper' zips along its Eastern scaled riffage and rolling drum work, beating to the ticking of a clock and some nifty synthwork throughout, whilst opening number 'Behind The Wall' might be the best lead off epic I've heard in years.

Technophobia may be the thematic order of the day here within Truth Button and the tunes that comprise it, but these boys certainly know no fear in studio: the album sounds beautiful, and the mixing is a thing of wonder as well. Furthermore, the songs are mindbendingly magnificent, melodic without an ounce of compromise on weight or intensity: such characteristics almost seem like an endangered species at times, even in today's oft crowded world of modern progressive rock.

2013 is already looking up in many a genre, but this release sits right up there with the best of it. Go get it!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cαndlemαss - Psαlms For The Deαd (2012)

With one weathered hand full of graveyard soil, you squeeze your nails into it's palm til' blood starts dripping down your arm. This record is such a rite in and of itself, full of ravenous tunes that bring glorious little blisters to eardrums aplenty. It is also a corpse ridden-boat being cast off into the great river of closure, a farewell to arms for the band that exemplified the golden age of 80's doom metal. The very least you can do is salute as your speakers spew some glorious riffage from the boys who did it best of all.

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Tεn - Thε Namε Of Thε Rosε (1996)

Perhaps the best AOR band to come out of the U.K. in the 1990's, Ten is something of a supergroup led by powerhouse singer/songwriter Gary Hughes, a thinking man's Whitesnake if you will.

Layered and unusually sonically diverse for an 80's styled melodic rock record, 1996 sophomore release Thε Namε Of Thε Rosε is considered to be the band's creative apex in a number of ways: Hughes's soaring tenor is put to marvelously good use from start to finish, and the songs vary from insanely catchy mid-tempo and single ready material ('Wait For You', the glammy 'Wildest Dreams') to full-blown epics straight out of the AOR/Progressive Rock crossover sphere ('Through The Fire', 'Goodnight Saigon'), complete with celestial synthesizers and odes to mankind's various follies.

Something like a distant cousin to prog-tinged AOR projects such as the 1990 self-titled by Blue Murder and Out Of The Silence by Dare, this record's got more punch than a party bowl can hold, so come 'n get it!

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Stεfαn Guииαrsson - S/T (2010)

One of those incredibly elusive post-Y2K debuts that endeavors mighty hard to bring back the age of smooth L.A. pop, Stefan is no stranger to his Scandinavian homeground: he's been featured on T.V. as a musical prodigy at a variety of instruments...and he's got a fine set of pipes to match.

The songwriting he employs is rather classy too: like Stevie Wonder trying to cross over the soul-inflected poppiness of early 90's Go West with a band like Airplay or perhaps Boz Scaggs. Several songs in particular, such as 'Words Are Not Enough' and 'Gotta Find It', feature old school Clavinet soloing, and those horns sound right out of the arrangement modus operandi of David Foster and his ilk. Smooooooove.

Catchy and expertly produced while still hearkening back some to days long past, this is a great modern Westcoast record for the nostalgic among get to listening!

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cαligulα's Horsε - Momεnts From Ephεmεrαl City (2011)

An amazing, Australian modern prog. rock gem that escaped my gaze last year, but WOWZAHZ! Catchy as hell too -- somewhere between Pain Of Salvation and Midlake as far as a hypothetical musical spectrum goes, but sounds even better than either of those groups in brilliant spurts.

Will be watching these fellas' future output like a hawk, that's for bloody sure!

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Kεn Nαvαrro - Drεαming Of Trαins (2010)

Known predominantly for his easy listening, smooth jazz output back in the late 80's and through the 90's, Drεαming Of Trαins is a whole different kettle of fish entirely for jazz guitarist Ken N. Technical, lush and full of beautiful, ethereal arrangements not unlike some of the best records of the Pat Metheny Group, these are some really gorgeous jams that do much good for contemporary jazz's credibility!

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Friday, October 5, 2012

Dεniεcε Williαms - Whεn Lovε Comεs Cαlling (1979/2010)

Co-produced by David Foster and featuring an all-star cast of Westcoast luminaries (drummer Jeff Porcaro, Steve Lukather, etc.), this was a transitional record for the underratedly talented Niecy and comes with a couple of really killer cuts ('God Knows', 'Why Can't We Fall In Love', among others) that makes even balladeer queen Whitney Houston seem awfully weak in comparison, lodged amidst the more upbeat, funk-oriented numbers for the jam oriented among thee.

Fans of the soul/funk/Westcoast hybridization of bands like Earth, Wind & Fire...welcome home.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Smoliк - Smoliк 3

A late summer jazz pop smorgasbord from Poland, featuring lots of cool songs and guests!

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Aмвяosiα - One Eighty (1980)

Whilst not as overtly progressive as this group's legendary self-titled from 1975, this turn-of-the-decade LP is probably their best pure Westcoast record: the biggest singles from here, 'You're The Only Woman' and 'Biggest Part Of Me', are both gorgeous FM radio staples and rank as two of the best songs to come out of the entire damn genre during its heyday. Their grand, proggy past rears itself on a number of great other songs too though, as the killer bass groove of 'Livin' On My Own' and the eerie keyboard chug of 'Kamikaze' demonstrate in spectacular measure.

Essential listening for fans of both Westcoast pop and crossover progressive rock!

NOTE: The below video is just the best I could find. My upload is a CD rip, not vinyl.

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tαtsuro Yαmαshitα - For You (1982)

My favorite album from this guy by a decent margin. As good as 1983's Melodies is (posted here on TWE eons ago), For You is the king of Japanese Westcoast records: from the infectious guitar line of 'Sparkle' to the shimmering Beach Boys-esque closing number 'Your Eyes', Tatsuro-san pulls no punches. Oceanic surf-pop doesn't get much better than this!

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Hαrold Bυdd - Lovεly Thυndεr (1986)

Classy deep ambient record straight outta the synthesized, fantastical side of the mid 80's. Budd treads some interesting ground here, as if trying to one up both Brian Eno and David Sylvian simultaneously in a single fell swoop of the keyboard.

In other words, not a bad soundtrack to someone's hypothetical alternative take on Blade Runner. Makes for a helluva sleeping aid too!

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Pεt Shop Boys - Bεhaviour (1990)

This is a point of contention I suppose, but I personally consider this turn-of-the-decade album one of the best synth-pop excursions ever crafted and the magnum opus of the Boys from the land of ice and snow. Those gorgeous keyboard textures, dem early 90's beatz, all the slick orchestral flourishes on tracks such as 'My October Symphony'...its a stone cold classic, ladies and gents. Opening number 'Being Boring' features the ever popular Johnny Marr on guitar as well!

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Friday, August 31, 2012

Fridriк Kαrlѕѕon - Chillout Hεavεn (2007)

New Age chillzak to the extreme-o. Most of this bro's output is the stuff of dentist offices and message parlors, but this particular record tries a bit more on the composition front and thus comes rather recommended to the particularly laid back among you.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

T-Squαrε - 33 (2007)

Japan's top smooth fusion commodity released this excellent set of cuts back in 2007, and its got the chops to make it the ideal entry point into their mindbogglingly large back catalog. It's got a bit of everything: breezy synthesizers, acoustic and shred-friendly electric guitar, all kinds of percussion and plenty of brass for the purists too. Lots of fun improv going on here...and there's even a catchy melody or two ('Flying Colors') to keep the more casual jazz fan interested.

Pretty high up there on the quality front as far as smooth/contemporary jazz is concerned, and an excellent addition to any cruise catering playlist you've got on hand!

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Tнrεshold - Woundεd Laиd (1993)

Merry old England's ecologically-minded answer to Dream Theater's Images & Words, and even in retrospect I find it a rather entertaining beginning for one of the world's mainstray progressive metal giants. The keyboards aren't pushed into the forefront quite as much as some of their contemporaries were prone to, and the guitar work here is wonderfully thrashy even at its most melodic.

Cult classic anyone?

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

DOCUMENTARY: Prog Rock Britannia - An Observation in Three Movements

Bloody excellent documentary detailing the golden years of Progressive Rock in the U.K. from the late 60's through the late 70's. 'Tis a bit lengthy I admit, but nevertheless a fascinating journey into a much-maligned genre.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Thε Claus Ogεrman Orchεstra - Gatε Of Drεams (1977)

One of the loveliest sounding Third Stream albums ever made by one of the coolest cats around, Claus Ogεrman is considered top rate as far as classical composers and arrangers of the last half century go, particularly in his contributions to the studio work of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Frank Sinatra. 

In all honesty though, Claus's own projects and less prominent collaborations are far more interesting to these ears, with Gatε Of Drεams being premier among his own select works. Romantic and enthralling in equal measure, cuts like opening suite 'Time Passed Autumn'are on par in some ways with anything Bill Evans ever did, swelling under the bridge in some darkened town with spacious strings, leading into a nostalgic guitar sequence midway through the game to seal the deal.

Part jazz quartet, part romantic classical, part bossa nova and 100% class, albums like this paved the way and inspired the works of modern composers such as the renowned Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno, and there aren't too many things out there in the vast sea of music that measure up to this when the hour is right.

Hope you all enjoy this essential recording as much as I do!

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Piεcεs Of A Drεam - Lovε's Silhouεttε (2002)

One of the groovier contemporary jazz releases of the last decade and arguably POAD's best record from start to finish, Lovε's Silhouεttε is blessed in numerous ways: it has a punchy mix that gives an extra edge to the bass and keyboards and hooky songwriting that engages as opposed to not. On top of that, these guys had been together about twenty years or so by the time this record hit stores, and their chemistry is tighter than a fishing knot -- much to the benefit of the songs themselves.

Style-wise, arrangements fall somewhere between the Brazilian flourished Pat Metheny Group and the late 90's output of The Rippingtons as far as atmosphere is concerned. Cuts like the tempestuous 'Turnin' It Up', the nightwalking Bossa Nova groover 'Mystical Perception' and the spacey beat-laden 'Mission Possible' are prime time displays of excellence, about as good as mood music gets in this genre.

Contemporary jazz is a hard genre to get just right, but Lovε's Silhouεttε would be right at home on any decent chillout mix...and stands fairly strong on the whole as a record too.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

REVIEW: Crossfade - Secret Love (2011)

One of the cooler projects led by Swedish vocal powerhouse Goran Edman (Yngwe Malmsteen, Karmakanic, Street Talk, among other bands he's fronted), Crossfade specialize in a bluesy, prog-inflected approach on the late 70's/early 80's Westcoast sound perfected by Toto, Ambrosia and Steely Dan. This particular record, last year's Secret Love, is the group's kickass sophomore release and a late-to-the-party kind of addition to my steadily lengthening list of 2011's best albums.

From my point of view, Goran's voice has a gravely, hit-or-miss quality in his tone which has given me a love/hate relationship with most of his recorded output, but when it comes to this particular project he always seems to bring his best. The title track's backbone, led by a wicked Lukatherian guitar groove slithering through the mix, the soaring 'Don't Ask Me Why', the jazzy, sax charged 'Waiting For A Miracle' -- lots of strong points on this album, folks, and the gorgeous production quality certainly doesn't hurt it either.

While this lacks the infectious pathos of Ole Borud's astonishing Keep Movin' LP that served as my Westcoast pick of 2011, Crossfade have their own approach to the genre that sounds very modern, yet embellished in classic Los Angeles fashion. Don't pass it up, ladies and gents!

Buy It Here!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Rεdεmption - Thε Origiиs Of Ruiи (2007)

A minor progressive metal masterpiece from the best Fates Warning offshoot of the 2000's. Typical instrumental setup, but with a delicious, layered sense of execution that proves more interesting than anything Dream Theater has cooked up since Images & Words all the way back in 1992.

Oh, and that's Ray Alder at the mic. How 'bout dem apples?

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Giиo Vαииεlli - Nightwalker (1981)

The last stone cold Westcoast classic in a five-string album run going all the way back to 1975's Storm At Sunup, this is a remarkable recording from the Canadian captain of all things strange and passionate, Giиo Vαииεlli.

Listening to these awesome songs is strangely comparable to a line in the opening title track: "dreaming at night is like chasing a madman's rainbow": the journey is a nonsensical mess you'll wake up from later, but while caught within it...there's nothing else that matters.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

REVIEW: Thank You Scientist - Maps Of Non-Existent Places (2012)

"Bizarrely beautiful" is one phrase that occurred to me after listening through this wonderful, wonderful debut after purchasing it a week or so ago. "Somebody really wanted to do a Coheed & Cambria/Mr. Bungle cover band" was another.

In reality though, there is no simple summation to an album as genuinely progressive as
Maps Of Non-Existent Places. It isn't afraid to blend anthems with atonal sax noodling, accessibility with the antiquated and uncommercially viable, or an emotionally charged chorus with violin/horn section brawlouts ('A Salesman's Guide To Non-Existence').

Thank You Scientist sound very, very very fresh in an era where its nigh impossible to stand out even when you do excel in your particular style. I do not have enough accolades for what these guys are doing, but don't take my word for it: check out their Bandcamp below!

Buy It Here!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Statε Cows - S/T (2010)

A dyed in the wool Westcoast classic for the modern age, at times even outgunning the big dogs in the genre from years past like Steely Dan and Toto in the songwriting department. We certainly are living in strange times though -- Swedes and Nords now do everything from jazzy pop to glam metal better than the country those genres originated in!

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Gabriel Bondage - Angel Dust (1975)

Acid-infused progressive folk rock (the Californian sort) from the decade where such things were almost fashionable. The space rock and jazz influences that work their insidious magic through these arrangements make this something of a cult classic in my eyes, but let the cards fall where they will.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gino Vannelli - 'Man Alive' Documentary

Gino Vannelli, whom Miles Davis once described as "the greatest musician the world", is also an incredibly fascinating guy. Enjoy his documentary below!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

REVIEW: The Panic Division - Eternalism (2012)

Modern science has concluded, years and years after everyone else knew it, that pop-oriented music is like cocaine to the brain. Hooks rattle and fire repeatedly like perpetual synapses, cycling through a manageable length of time with enough power to bring anyone back to life from the brink of spiritual annihilation.

Colton Holliday, a fellow Texan and talented to a degree that only the fewest of the few seem to reach, knows popcraft like some people know useless information: abundantly and uncannily. He's a jack of all trades who can do it all: write, produce, program, and rip into a guitar like a time machine tearing through the continuum.

And with his pet project The Panic Division's latest album, Eternalism, he has created a sleek modern masterpiece that will leave most rock bands smacking their lips in wordless envy. Blending the kind of dynamic energy that pulsed like a heartbeat through the 90's with the atmospheric drenchery of 80's AOR is no small feat, and yet its pulled off with sickeningly fun ease here.

Every track here is a rip-roaring single waiting to happen, with a couple in particularly being criminally infectious like opening gutpunch 'Silver Rings' and the industrialized rush of 'No Power Great Enough'. The overall production and songwriting approach is rather novel: Colton has a voice that's scarily reminiscent of Roland Orzabel (Tears For Fears), yet he uses it in such a way that makes one think of early Interpol or 2000's pop-punk upstarts like All Time Low. Quite a wonder to behear, in all honesty.

I own every album this maestro has set to record, but this third full-length is on another plane of excellence all its own. I can only listen through these songs in a state of bobbing, hypnotized awe and wonder why none of the Internet's top publications has gone crazy with accolades over this yet.

Looking for the perfect pop-rock album of 2012? You've found it, ladies and gents!

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pαυl Hαяdcαsτlε - Jαzzmαsτεяs (1993)

Paul's first foray into contemporary jazz territory, and his first full-length collaboration with the very talented Helen Rogers at the mic too. Although later projects under this particular moniker are more textured in some ways, this is the record that defined contemporary jazz over the next two decades and set a high standard for others to aspire to. Highly recommended!

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Jεllyfiѕн - Spilt Milк (1993)

One of the best pop albums of the 1990's by a hefty margin and a textbook example of how good power pop should sound without getting stuck into typical album pacing issues. Lots to love here, including the cool as cool strut of 'New Mistake", minor FM classics like 'Bye, Bye, Bye' and 'The Ghost Of Number One' and the plucky acoustics of 'Russian Hill' that blooms like a flower into vintage, glorious Brian Wilson territory.

In other words, an absolute classic from two decades back, and essential listening if you have any interest in alternative rock. Or, hell, if you have any interest in music at all.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Pαυl Hαяdcαsτlε - Jαzzmαsτεяs III (1999)

My favorite album from today's #1 contemporary electronic jazz producer. Features some absolutely killer vocal House cuts, but the instrumentals are in a dimension all their own as well.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dεpεchε Modε - Violαtor (1990)

Need I honestly embellish some bullshit reason for you to stick this methanized-or-mayhap-robotized pop classic somewhere in that unsightly wreck you call a collection? Really now? *laughs maniacally whilst not so subtly sneaking away to somewhere with better whiskey*.

Synths galore from every hipster's favorite 80's group...and it'll throck your socks off.

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Mαяcus D - Mεlαиcholy Hopεful (2012)

A couple of drinks by the harbor, watching tides roll through the sand. Or maybe its some lucid dream in motion, flowing like rain through a cloudborne subwoofer. D's first guest-populated collection is one helluva dope enclave as far as jazz-hop is concerned, bolstered by versers of smooth, well-tread pedigree like Cise Starr, Substantial and the elusive Funky DL. Furthermore, the samples are out of this world, as well as the production values. Just...dayum!

GG 2012

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Kεnmochi Hidεfumi - TIGER LILLY (2005)

A label mate of the late and great Nujabes (Hydeout Records), Hide-san specializes in Worldly, percussive instrumental hip-hop which proves a bit more hypnotic than your typical Japanese jazz-hop excursion, particularly on some of the drive-friendly longer cuts like 'Bridge Of Sunshine'. Steller!

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Thε Motεls - All Fouя Onε (1982)

Classic L.A. New Wave pop from the early part of the 80's. The more studious among you should recognize 'Only The Lonely', 'Take The L' and 'Apocalypso', but this whole set comes as keytastic and ear-catching as you could ask for from the time and place, so rejoice!

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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Brαiи Police - Beyoиd Tнe Wαstelαиd (2006)

Hailing from the vulcan shores of Iceland and picked up by an independent American label back in 2005, these aren't your ordinary Police, no sirree! This fantastic debut is a fine honed arbalest of rock and wailing thunder, invoking at times the souls of more well known ancestors such as Atomic Rooster and Led Zeppelin, yet retaining a specialized gallop that makes them unique in a world full of bands who rumble and quake as hard as anyone in the last century.

Treasures such as this album are peerless things, styles aside. They pulsate, resonate, stand their ground no matter what era somebody decides to pluck them from beneath the layers of silt and forgotten press. Songs such as 'Mystic Lover' and "Thunderbird' would kick just as much ass on radio back in '75 as they would in 2012, and that should be good enough for all and any sceptics.

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Johииy Hαtes Jαzz - Turи Bαcк Tнe Clocк (1988)

One of the unlikely success stories of the late 80's New Romantic FM world and a prime example of that intriguing subgenre known as "sophisti-pop", JHJ's 1988 one-shot is mostly remembered as an interesting footnote here in the U.S. due to the #1 status of hit single "Shattered Dreams", a textured slice of Yamaha-led fun that still holds up rather well today.

That being said, this album is severely underrated within the context of the time period as whole: it's right up there with the best material of Swing Out Sister, Prefab Sprout and even The Blue Nile in sheer sonic crafture. Lead vocalist Clark Datchler is confidence personified and a minor songwriting genius: he wrote or co-wrote every cut here, including the shoulda-been-a-hit-but-wasn't 'Listen' and minor-key curio 'Don't Let It End This Way', which features a strangely haunting keyboard refrain between verses. His smooth tenor gives even the ballads, particularly the title track, a kick they wouldn't have had with a lesser singer.

Bubbling synths, layered guitar, gated drums and plenty of personality: you guys know the drill. Evidently they're due for a brand new record sometime this year after a two decade hiatus: we can only hope it lives up to the commercial appeal that these cuts have in spades.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Tony Stone - For A Lifetime (1988)

Born Tony Devenport at Battersea, South London (where the famous power plant on Pink Floyd's Animals was immortalized) and growing up with soul, pop and blues at equal lengths, tonight's star player adopted the stage name Tony Stone as a youngster and began something of a solo career at whatever pub might have him, bringing his Steve Winwood meets Bill Withers to many a delighted attendee wherever he happened to be performing.

After making friends with Westcoast luminary Ned Doheny and a number of others through the years, 1988 saw the release of this unusual fellow's one and only studio outing For A Lifetime to little fanfare on either side of the Atlantic despite lots of catchy, intelligent songs that fall in some wonderful space between L.A. and Motown circa 1979.

Crossover territory along those line is best illustrated through songs like 'My Good Friend James', with its soaring bridge and pulsating groove, but there's plenty of fun to be had in the occasional left turn sonically: 'Perish The Thought' is a Hi-Tech midtempo romp that should have put Tony right up there on the art-pop map alongside Yes and The Outfield: smooth as smooth gets, fellas. 

Despite a couple of questionable ballads and R&B elements throughout, Mr. Devenport was certainly more interesting than a lot of crooners from the late 80's, and although he's been fairly low-key musically since this came out, he's welcome back to it anytime!


Friday, June 22, 2012

Uиitopia - Aяτificiαl (2010)

One of the best progressive rock bands on the planet today happen to be Australian, led by the charismatic, Gabrielesque tone of Mark Trueack, eclectic soundscaping (think the pop sensibility of The Alan Parsons Project colliding headlong with Rush) and, in the context of this particular album, a surprisingly literal take on the concept of an overly-artificed world that has alienated your average person due to excessive technological and multimedia innovations and associated baggage.

Fans of modern progressive rock with big ideas, assloads of sax and a surprisingly immersive sense of songwriting, the line starts here!

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

REVIEW: Sonic Station - Sonic Station (2012)

The pet project of guitarist/producer Alexander Kronbrink and singer/songwriter Marika Willstedt, this modern day Westcoast/AOR offering certainly couldn't have come at a better time: stalwarts in the genre such as Toto aren't recording new material, and the international commercial landscape musically has gone through some major continental driftage -- the decade where sumptuous stuff like this ruled the charts is already ancient history.

Featuring three other vocalists besides Ms. Willstedt and a surprising amount of variety as far as the tracks themselves go, I found myself glued to my speakers, salivating all the while: opening number 'Love's Gonna Show The Way' is straight out of 1988 with those blazin' keyboards, an infectious rumbler that wouldn't have been out of place on The Seventh One or that debut by fellow Swedish luminaries Time Gallery. Wow!

Four of the tracks here are led by the previously mentioned Marika Willstedt, and all in all she's probably an AOR fan's top reason for tuning in at all: Carole King don't got nothin' on this talented lass, and her voice is heavenly on songs like 'I Wish I Could Lie', 'Last Refrain' and 'Running Through The Night'. Earworm choruses I tell ya, earworm choruses!

The record is shiny enough to eat off of, immaculately produced and coated with a modern sheen that enhances the mix immeasurably. It's at least on par with Ole Borud's Keep Movin' mixwise, and the majority of the songs prove just as catchy and mesmerizing as any of the Westcoast classics of the early 80's, or, hell, even Jay Graydon's flawless work with Airplay and related studio work.

From ballads to highway groovers to fist-pumping anthems that validate every goodhearted feeling you've ever felt towards the world, Sonic Station stands alone in 2012 as an AOR release that goes the extra mile, even when you least expect it.

Buy It Here!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Яetuяn To Forεvεя - No Mystεяy (1975)

Classic fusion delicacy from the masters of space and time. It's a bit more funk oriented, (and, dare I say it, heavier) than their past or subsequent albums circa 1975, but that's definitely not a bad quality to have under any context.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Splεndεr - Hαlfwαy Down Thε Sky (1999)

Along with Vertical Horizon, pop savvy alternative rockers Splεndεr had a brief moment there at the end of the 90's where the public was warming up to anything commercially viable that wasn't techno, Britpop or Nirvana. The other factors involved here, such as catchy songwriting, admirable performances, and the legendary Todd Rundgren at the production reins don't really hurt either. Have fun!

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

REVIEW: Suspyre - Suspyre (2012)

Few bands in the progressive metal spectrum showed as much promise as Suspyre did when they stormed the world with 2005's The Silvery Image. That particular debut was a brilliant monstrosity, off kilter whilst remaining nigh-classical in its curious contortions and motifs. They drew favorable comparisons with everyone from Dream Theater to Meshuggah, and have since continued to refine and reinvent themselves as an entity beyond that crop of colleagues.

Thus, we come to their self-titled here in 2012, and in doing so have not only shattered expectations, but have gone far, far beyond their peers into places mostly unexplored in a metal subtext, bringing in everything from bossa nova elements to beach pop...hell, even smooth jazz. The riffs dazzle, the keyboards accentuate the instrumental crossfires, and vocalist Clay Barton has evolved into a real wonder over the last seven years, a soaring talent capable of handling everything from radio-friendly melodic material ('Divided Son', the beach-metal 'Cancun') to more challenging blitzkriegs that harken back to the over-technical velocity that turned these boys into a household name in the first place ('Tranquility And Stress', 'The Man Made Of Stone').

All in all, these songs prove to be some of the coolest and catchiest Suspyre have put to posterity as of the present, and the whole album thrills the senses even at its strangest, unmetallish moments. I honestly can't recommend it enough!

Buy It Here!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sqυαckεττ - A Lifε Wiτнin A Dαy (2012)

Melding progressive rock with audience grabbing popcraft is one of those things that mostly went out of style twenty some years ago: the stuff of daddies and mommies heading into middle age such as The Alan Parsons Project, Asia, It Bites, Marillion and God knows how many other talented acts. Buzz and fuzz prevailed over synth-laden complicatives and layered harmonizing, and for better or for worse the world moved on.

Thankfully, the Noughties are and continue to be an extremely fractured era in music, the kind of world where anyone can reach anyone they please, a glorious landscape where progressive rock stalwarts like Steve Hackett and Chris Squire (of Genesis [guitarist] and Yes [bassist] respectively) can work together for 4+ years on mindblowing little albums like this one without giving two shits about the market.

These two masters have been doing session work together off and on since Hackett's brief stint with GTR back in the mid 80's, with this record being something of a culmination of their friendship and uncanny synergy. It's one hell of a potent combination, with a couple of tracks in particular like the single-worthy 'Sea Of Smiles' and acoustically alchemical 'Aliens' being earworms on par with anything done back in the late 70's-80's by any of the best of those bands who dared tread that elusive border between the commercial and convoluted. Squire and Hackett's voices rise like a mist above lush audio jungles, awash in thudding guitars, keyboards and the usual instrumentation, but the songwriting is top-notch and coalesce these familiar elements into vibrant sonic fantasies, grand enough to satiate even the pickiest of euphonic connoisseurs.  

Needless to say, progressive rock has a long shelf life ahead of it if electrifying records like this continue to propagate throughout the fringes and into the lucky souls of those blessed few who hold their antennas high. Magnificent.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Single Mothers - Indian Pussy (2012)

Primordial, filthy and sounding like something fresh out of an archeological dig for some kind of badass Californian pharaoh, Single Mothers are an L.A. act (led by singer-songwriter Harry Cloud) who are pioneering new, whacky ways to grind your brain to mush with their bizarre, yet beautiful take on buzzed out, modern day psychedelia.

Sonically, there's a billion comparisons but no true parallel within these seven cuts. There's a haziness throughout that brings back fond memories of everyone from Sleepy Sun a few years back to Kyuss, the Melvins... and even some of the more bizarre collectives out in Japan such as Acid Mothers Temple and Ghost. Unlike some of these aforementioned acts however, Cloud and co. never repeat themselves, and demonstrate diversity without fail: 'Tae's Watch' is comes across as gloriously pastoral despite some spaced out vocal madness early on, culminating in a blissful guitar solo in the second half of the piece, while instrumental 'Drowning' oscillates waves and waves of distortion that slowly gives way to soaring, choral serenity that soars above the noise.

My favorite cut, however, is the anthemic, chest-thumping 'Helicopter', a song that sounds straight out of the mid 90's in the best way possible. It's marijuana-laced pond scum with a pop sensibility, and I can think of a thousand bands out there who'd have killed to write something this good.

While I'm sorry to say I've never been to L.A., bands like Single Mothers keep giving me reasons to go and stay for a show, and that's not something I can say for just anyone.

Don't wait. Get this NOW...or regret it later!

Download/Buy Here!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Coммodores - S/T (1977)

Classic 70's funk milestone, full of zoomin', brick houses like women, and the home of that prototypical lounger that launched a thousand radio plays, Lionel Richie's 'Easy'.

These fellas have done over a half a dozen fine, fine records since 1974, but this is an excellent starting place for anyone new to these guys.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Go Wεst - S/T (1985)

Led by the charismatic, 70's soul-inflected vocals of Peter Cox and fluid guitar work of Richard Drummie, progressive pop duo Go West were one of the more interesting acts to come out of the U.K. during the robotic mid 80's. Infectiously good and strangely compelling as far as atmosphere goes despite their overtly synthesized take on blue-eyed R&B meets New Wave romanticism, they had a couple of high charting hits via this fantastic debut before falling into obscurity until a few years later when their hit song 'The King Of Wishful Thinking' ended up on the Pretty Woman soundtrack, reinvigorating their prospects.

Although obviously dated in the production department, this synth-pop record is a real charmer from beginning to end, almost to the point where I'd call it a unsung classic.

Recommended to fans of: Level 42, It Bites, Johnny Hates Jazz, or Giraffe (late 80's band started by pop-maestro Kevin Gilbert).

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Hobson's Choice - New Horizons (1996)

Very obscure American (New Orleans specifically) progressive rock gem from the late 90's that holds a special place in my heart: I ran across New Horizons on accident as a sophomore in high school, a time in my life when I knew very little about music beyond what my friends found on MySpace or heard on the radio...and, alongside the output of bands like Camel and The Alan Parsons Project, it was quite a revelation to these ears of mine!

Sonically, it comes off as a rather thoughtful take on territory previously delved into by Yes, Gentle Giant, and some of  the U.S.'s more interesting 70's progressive rock highlights such as Starcastle, Mirthrandir and Cathedral. That being said, these guys are very much their own beast: the arrangements lean closer to jazz-fusion in places than the high-strung art rock of their influences, and are never anything less than intriguing. While only seven tracks in length, they're all classy and interesting: in particular, 'Raging Sun' is simply superb, a stirring opening number that builds into a gorgeous guitar crescendo about halfway through, while the piano led 'Steps Of Eight' and infectious title track exemplify what I like best in prog rock: twists, turns and oodles of harmony.

These fellas didn't make so much as a splash when they released this album back in '96...not even in the progressive rock community. However, it's a diamond in the rough and a shining example of what happens when good bands get even better ideas and decide to record something interesting with 'em.

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bεε Gεεs - Spiяits Hαviиg Flowи (1979)

First of all, R.I.P. Robin Gibb: you were one in a million, and a lot of people out there are going to miss that voice of yours.

This particular post is my dedication to the former B.G. Arriving in 1979 a couple of years after the Saturday Night Fever OST catapulted these disco-savvy brothers into a level of megastardom equivalent to that of The Beatles at their peak, Spirits Having Flown is considered to be not only their last great stamp upon a rapidly changing musical landscape (disco was just about dead), but their most ambitious LP as far as their artistic prowess & execution is concerned. To put it lightly, the arrangements are such that I'd say this is a pop masterpiece up there with Michael Jackson's Thriller and The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds: most of the songs here don't even need an introduction from me, and will most likely persist prominently in mankind's culture consciousness long after I'm six feet under.

Anyway, I'm not going to tell you regulars to stop hating soft rock, post-disco, etc. or whatnot, but I personally think its a shame to hate on this collection of sublime funk-pop crossover deliciousness, especially since the album boasts some of the best three-part vocal harmonizing of all time. Dig it!

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