Sights and Sounds of Note – February 2015

February is the shortest month of the calendar year but there is no shortage of new music products to explore. SoundPress.net recently checked out an eclectic stack of new CDs from Dylan Howe, The Mangoes, Richie Kotzen, Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King. We also received the 10th Anniversary CD re-issue of Back Against The Wall a compilation of various artists recreating Pink Floyd’s epic album The Wall. The Chord Buddy also arrived at the office. Cold northeastern winter months are the ideal time to start this two month guitar teaching system.

Dylan Howe (www.dylanhowe.com) is a band leader and drummer. Dylan’s latest instrumental album is a creative spin on the “Berlin Era” of David Bowie and Brian Eno. From 1976-1979, David released three records that reflected his interest in ambient, minimalistic music. Dylan approaches the material from a jazz perspective, giving many of the pieces a distinct jazz feel with plenty of innovative interplay The title Subterranean New Designs on Bowie’s Berlin aptly describes the artful arrangements within.

In the opening track keys amid deep bass lines captures the mood of “Subterranean”. A sax adds accents to the piece as it meanders through crafty changes revealing a pattern used effectively throughout this nine-track album. Howe’s drumming ranges from deliberate to delicate depending on what the music calls for and he allows plenty of space for his band to shine. The “Moss Garden” features his dad Steve Howe (Yes) playing a Koto. This 13-string Japanese instrument was used on Bowie’s Heroes record. It gives the closing number a subtle mystical vibe.

The Mangos (mangoesband.wix.com) are Bret Bingham and Tim Morse. Their self-titled CD The Mangos is a concept album of a turbulent relationship woven into commentary on the music industry. The two paint from a broad pallet of musical genres ranging from Beatle inspired pop, to EDM and more. Although this 19-track CD is diverse the pairing of like sounding styles gives it cohesiveness. The Spanish flavored “Barista Girl” served with “Samba Mambo” (tracks 3&4) complement each other before the mood switches with the swagger and swing of “The Future (Will Be Yours)”. Later “Dirty Love” grabs attention with its hint of gritty rock and the fast paced closer “The Mango Theme” combines a bit of punk with keys along with rhyming lyrics. The Mangos present a juicy story in colorful instrumental and vocal compositions.

Cannibals is an interesting record for me,” Richie Kotzen (www.richiekotzen.com) explains, “because much of this material is comprised from recordings that are as old as 10 years.” Richie’s 20th solo album hits you with its many musical shades ranging from hard rock, R&B, soul and even a disco track. The danceable “Come On Free” includes a chant that feeds into “I’m All In”. This spirited rocker features Kotzen trading vocals with Dug Pinnik of Kings X. It a bold piece with the two singers giving it an additional boost.

The meaty title track is a tasteful blend of chunky riffs and rhythms. The soulful “In An Instant” showcases Richie’s rich reflective vocal range and is well paired with the edgy “The Enemy”. Cannibals serves up rockers along with more pensive pieces such as “You” a piano/vocal arrangement that Kotzen penned based on a piano idea that his teenage daughter had written. “Time For The Payment” flows on a similar vibe as “You” with more instrumentation and bigger vocals. Cannibals is a diverse flavorful record filled with riveting riffs, rousing rhythms and sensuous singing. A very satisfying platter!

Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King’s (www.smokinjoekubek.com) new CD Fat Man’s Shine Parlor his the streets on February 4, 2015. The two guitar players who have very different musical backgrounds have been working together for 25 years. They have conjured up their own unique blend of Texas styled blues on their latest Blind Pig Records release.

Fat Man’s Shine Parlor features twelve originals that reflect the past and present of the blues. As is common in the genre the soulful Bnois sings stories of heartbreak. Yet they have other tales to tell including a flavorful tribute to “Cornbread”. “How Much” is a modern version of the woes of a traveling blues man, playing gigs that instead of being a paycheck end up being a payout. An idea expressed in drivers charging too much and a comment that “my wallet is losing weight”. In addition to fine song craft the pair is backed by a solid rhythm section.

Both Kubek and King are agile axe men. In his early days on the scene, Joe was backing many famous blues players including the 3 Kings. His hot licks on Fat Man’s Shine Parlor are a testimony to his moniker “Smokin Joe”. Bnois came from the jazz world and his softer jazz approach blends brilliantly with Joe’s bolder riffs. Fat Man’s Shine Parlor is strong CD from seasoned players, melding old & new school blues with passion.

Pink Floyd’s The Wall was an art rock opera, one that might be considered untouchable. Yet, a group of musicians including members of ELP, King Crimson, Styx, Toto, Yes & more took on the challenge. Back Against The Wall (cleorecs.com/store/shop/back-against-the-wall-a-tribute-to-pink-floyd-2-cd/) stays true to the original double album with some artists giving the time tested songs an occasional different spin. The 10th Anniversary re-issue also has all new artwork and 5 bonus re-mixes, 4 variations ranging from dub to radio of “Another Brick In The Wall Part 2 and a blackburner re-mix of “Comfortably Numb”.

Long-time musician Travis Perry is the inventor and instructor of the “as seen on Shark Tank” Chord Buddy (www.chordbuddy.com). Laura of SoundPress.net began with the DVD/booklet. Both address the fundamentals starting with “have fun.” Next, is practice. Travis recommends a minimum of 30 minutes a day but hours will produce better results. Perry stresses that timing and tuning are essential. He highly recommends that people invest in a metronome and an electronic tuner both available from the Chord Buddy website or from a local music store.

Travis gives an explanation of the parts of the Chord Buddy and how to put it on a guitar. The program begins with the basics of holding the guitar and pick. Next is strumming – starting with a straightforward downward movement to the more involved “pop-strumming” technique that is demonstrated in future lessons. The idea behind the Chord Buddy is for the device to hold the chords down as the player works on strumming and rhythm first. Later in the program, parts and eventually all of the Chord Buddy are removed allowing the student to play the actual chords once they have learned proper strumming and timing.

After some adjustments, Laura with the aid of the Chord Buddy was playing the G, D, C and E minor chords. The advantage of a DVD program is that one can pause and reverse to review concepts. By the end of Laura’s first session with the help of the Chord Buddy she had played “Tom Dooley” – a two chord tune. Based on Laura’s first try the Chord Buddy is a good starting point for those who are ready to put the time and effort into learning how to play the guitar.

EVEN MORE NOTABLE RELEASES! SoundPress.net founder Rockin’ Rich Lynch (www.richlynchband.com) returns with his third official digital single “Hollywood Star” that is receiving promising reviews for it’s melancholy country vibe based on an all too true and tragic story ripped from the local headlines, listen at (https://soundcloud.com/richlynchband/hollywood-star) …

Warwick, New York-based The Levins (www.thelevinsmusic.com) return with their second full-length CD Trust and trust us, it’s great. The acoustic folk duo excel throughout the album’s 12-tracks and take us on a poignant musical road trip celebrating our common humanity with a lighthearted depth …

Illinois indie rocker Andrew D. Huber‘s (www.cdbaby.com/cd/andrewdhuber3/) Mercury Gets a Moon has been called an acoustic-rock-folk-celtic hootenanny throwdown and it marks another step forward for his straight-forward, personal folk-rock storytelling that is bound in earnest and emotional songs.

See ya next month!

About Sights and Sounds of Note: SSON column editors Richard J. Lynch and Laura Turner Lynch are the founders of SoundPress.net, an Internet-based music industry magazine and review site, online since 1999. Laura is a published author of the inspirational Positive Power Secrets From A to Z (www.positivepowersecrets.net). Rich regularly interviews famous rock stars for the site’s radio show and he has recently launched his own recording career at (www.richlynchband.com).

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