Busy month! Green beer, flowers, adjust the clock, colored eggs and passing over. We recommend spending some quality time with these artists while you go about your activities in the upcoming days.
The bizarre history of Asia Featuring John Payne (www.johnpayneasia.com) might only be surpassed by the story of his new band and their latest full-length self-titled album Dukes of the Orient. In short, the original supergroup ASIA reformed in 2006 leaving Mr. Payne on the sidelines after he and Geoff Downes kept that brand alive for nearly 15 years in the lean for prog nineties. Incredibly, ask many fans of the “Heat Of The Moment” messengers if they ever heard of him – and their answer would likely be “no”. Payne, like former frontman John Wetton, is an Englishman, a bass player and a smoothly strong vocalist. This project began around the time of his legal settlement with that other ASIA and neared it’s completion around the time of Wetton’s unfortunate passing. With more than a decade gone by since its inception this album was quickly becoming its generation’s Chinese Democracy and Payne felt that out of respect for the past he should just go with a new band name and identity. What cannot be denied this duke is there is a segment of die-hard prog rockers who prefer J.P.’s tenure and recorded output in ASIA to its more famous forebears. One listen to Payne’s convincing urgency tied to the incredible guitar and keyboard work on “Strange Days” will show you just why that’s the improbable case. Strange days indeed.
The Cravens (www.cravensongs.com) are led by the Storch Brothers – Bill and John on guitars and vocals – who both left Florida decades ago in search of rock ‘n’ roll glory. Together with Dennis Ambrose on bass; Ron DeSaram on lead guitar; and Bill Meredith on drums and percussion they all got a taste of the life back in the day with their regionally well-known bands Ata-Tat and Crossfire Choir. Alas, competition was fierce and fame was fleeting. A glimpse at their back stories reveal the often troubling methods of how the sausage is made in the music industry. Now, back in the Sunshine State the five player’s current project began five years ago and today they have put it all On The Line on a fantastic new album that puts all of their collective experience to good use. The record’s eight selections are concise, well-produced, punky and forceful melodic rock tracks that tell their complicated story in a set of reflective songs. Up first is “Highway” a Smithereensesque call to the open road that leads directly to the dark and driving “Road To Reason”. The opening double shot finds a band taking a direct approach stripping away some of the excess that might have gummed up their gears in the past. “Stay Standing” again references the highway giving hope that this quintet might take it to the streets soon. Either way, on their triumphant debut The Storch Brothers and The Cravens have delivered a powerful statement that will leave you craving some more.
Neal Morse (www.nealmorse.com) is currently one of the world’s most respected progressive rock musicians but occasionally this multi-instrumentalist enjoys taking a simpler approach. On Life & Times the 12 tracks are shorter, spiked with subtler instrumentation, yet still insightful. Morse says “I’ve come through a lot of difficult times and I’m in a fairly content place now.” You can feel that on some of the songs.” Much of this ‘acoustic-orientated, singer/songwriter’ album was written while Neal was travelling around the world on “The Road Called Home” tour in 2017. For example, “Manchester” is a musical portrait of that notorious rarity-a sunny day in Manchester, England. “Selfie in The Square” was penned in Luxembourg City where Neal heard cathedral bells and watched children play but he wished his wife was there to share the moments so he wrote the song. Other tracks are reflections on life and relationships. The most heartbreaking and powerful composition is “He Died At Home” about a mother’s grief over the loss of her soldier son. Morse explains, “I had been praying for a roommate of a friend of mine, who was a troubled ex-military guy. The day we were playing in Paris, I woke up to a text saying that sadly, he had died. As I began formulating ideas for a song about him, I remembered that many years ago, I had been at a meeting at a military base in Tennessee. They asked us to pray for their men because almost every week they were going to the funeral of those who had ‘died at home.” Life & Times shows another side of Neal’s talents as it also reveals some of his personal insights in the process.
Dhani Harrison (www.dhaniharrison.com) is an accomplished cinematic composer and musician – well-respected for his three albums and two EPs with the band thenewno2, along with his role in the super group Fistful of Mercy (with Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur). Dhani co-produced (with Jeff Lynne) his father’s (George Harrison) posthumous 2004 album Brainwashed, which earned three Grammy nominations and won the award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance (“Marwa Blues”). Harrison has also collaborated with an array of artists including The Wu-Tang Clan, Regina Spektor, Pearl Jam, UNKLE and Prince. In October of 2017, Dhani released his first solo record – In///Parallel a soundtrack of self-exploration that travels through varied electronic soundscapes and vocal expressions. “I have a fairly lucid memory. I remember events from my life and put music to them,” shares Harrison of the new album. “Each track is pretty much a scene from my past. My gift from the universe is that I really enjoy changing, and that’s why I’m now happy being Dhani Harrison. With everything you accomplish, you gain a freedom to do something else in your life, not unlike a video game, where you unlock different levels, powers and weapons. I had to go through the process, and I unlocked a lot of different stuff in myself, which allows me to be who I am now.” Dhani’s gift to fans is In///Parallel a ten-track maze through mesmerizing modern music with a message waiting for the listener to unlock.
With three decades of platinum records, CMA and ACM awards, multiple Grammy nominations, eight world tours and countless performances for deployed troops under his belt, powerhouse vocalist Tim Rushlow (www.timrushlow.com) has moved into a new musical realm. In recent years, Tim has been aptly fronting a big band and covering classic crooners such as Bobby Darin, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Dean Martin, Andy Williams and more. Tim Rushlow & His Big Band-LIVE features the entertainer with an 18 piece band performing the Great American Songbook. There are plenty of high points on this 12-track walk down memory lane including a snappy take of “Beyond The Sea”, “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head” with the swagger of Dean Martin, a fine tribute to Elvis on “Love Me” and a number of notable nods to the Chairman of The Board. “Tim Rushlow is a genuine and rare talent who is able to authentically cross over musical genres. My father, the late Bobby Darin, was able to do that as well and it’s just fantastic to see Tim interpret some of my father’s songs,” said Dodd Mitchell Darin. During Tim’s informative banter it is apparent that he has had a lifelong love of this music which comes through loud and clear on Tim Rushlow & His Big Band-LIVE available as a CD/DVD set. Join Tim Rushlow on this engaging and entertaining journey through the timeless Great American Songbook!
Musicians – Sterling Ball, John Ferraro and Jim Cox have recently released The Mutual Admiration Society (www.mutualadmirationsocietymusic.com) an impressive 13-track instrumental record that features an array of incredible guests; Steve Lukather (Toto), Steve Morse (Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs, Kansas), John Petrucci (Dream Theater), Albert Lee, Jay Graydon and Steve Vai. The trio have been collaborators for decades and this CD demonstrates that the group still has a passion for playing. The project evolved as top-tier artists expressed an interesting in this varied collection of blues, country and rock classics. For example, Steve Morse heard their version of “The In Crowd” and pretty much asked if he could participate. You don’t say “no” to Steve Morse if he wants to play on a record. The result? A cool cover of the Dobie Gray tune. Then, Lukather wanted in, so he recorded “Please Don’t Go” at 12 time Grammy Nominated producer, Jay Graydon’s Garden Rake Studio. Steve Vai was inspired to cut an old favorite track from his youth. “For some reason, that song (“Sugar Shack”) was huge for me when I was 4 years old, and it stuck! My goal with the melody was to try and retain the innocence and charm of the original,” shares Steve on his sweet selection. John Petrucci with Sterling decided that a medley of tunes from a couple of 1940’s animated Disney movies and some old-school Disneyland/Disney World theme park songs would make for the ultimate guitar-powered walk down ‘Main Street USA.” Other greats such as Chuck Berry, Guy Clark, Hank Williams, Sonny Boy Williamson and the Jackson 5 were also given masterful treatment by The Mutual Admiration Society – a must have album to any music lover’s stellar collection.
Founded in 1966, Mabel Greer’s Toyshop (MGT) (www.mabelgreerstoyshop.com) were among prog-rock’s first pioneers. However, by 1968 they had morphed into YES with the addition and subtraction of band members thus starting an ongoing trend for the now legendary YES. Fast forward to 2017, and as Clive Bayley of MGT explains, “I was inspired to do The Secret because Peter Banks’ passing in 2013 was the catalyst for meeting Bob Hagger (drummer with Mabel Greer’s Toyshop) again and coming up with the crazy idea of re-forming Mabel Greer. The result is that we have produced two new albums since then, and released re-mastered BBC tapes from 1967 on the EP Images”. The Secret was released on December 8th and the aforementioned Banks (former YES & Flash guitarist) can be heard playing a guitar duo with Mabel Greer’s founder, guitarist and vocalist, Clive Bayley for the first time in 50 years. Clive had written the title track around parts previously recorded by Peter in a tribute to Banks and Chris Squire who both joined MGT in September of 1967. The Secret features nine new expansive and exploratory songs partially inspired by classical composers. Max Hunt on keyboards and Hugo Barré on bass join Bayley and Hagger on this reflective record. MGT’s music echoes of the 60’s while utilizing modern production. To our ears, Mabel Greer’s Toyshop sounds more like the Moody Blues than YES but they are still an inspiring story of a group returning to their musical past in the present day.
EVEN MORE NOTABLE RELEASES! Sifting through the digital postcards this month we’re delighted to discover that music is alive and well the world over. Let’s takes a look…
• I don’t know much about the artist Austin Colon (austincolonmusic.bandcamp.com) but I do know he studied contemporary writing and production at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and that he has learned his lesson well. There’s not many better sounding studio efforts than “Alone (Again?)” from his The Path Ahead and even a streaming version sounds like he’s in the room with you blanketing you with sound and harmonics that evoke both joy and sadness. He’s been compared to Manchester Orchestra, Bon Iver and Pink Floyd with good reason – we can’t wait to hear more!
• Dan Sheehan (www.dansheehan.net) – founder and frontman of the Dan Sheehan Conspiracy – has a theory that there’s something wrong with the world and you can hear all about it on his forthcoming solo album that is stacking up to be his most commendable project to date. Tales From Earth, Inc. is a concept album and live show from the artist and large supporting cast that addresses the effects of greed on people around the globe. Take for instance “Cross the Border” – a timely track about weapons trafficking that starts off acoustically before morphing into a full-blown rocker complete with Dan’ s post-classic-rock psychedelic style. It’s good to know that in the age of Trump currently dominated by cycle after cycle of fake news that there’s still truth to be found within the grooves of an articulate artist’s protest songs. Now, if the rest of the industry would take the lead, we might just get somewhere!
• German rockers Formosa (www.formosa-band.de) cite some of their favorite things as “rock n roll, rock and bier” and that makes perfect sense as these devils from Deutschland are both deviant and delicious. Some of their output is definitely not for the faint of heart. But that’s not the case with “Mañana” the third single whose bright and pounding crunchy chords will give you all the reason you need to get up tomorrow. Their new album Sorry For Being Sexy is loaded like a bizzarro world mashup of Guns n Roses meets the Sex Pistols. Still, who are we to judge? This one overall is well done even if it’s just a little crisp around the edges.
• Hemmit (www.hemmitmusic.com) are a Portland, Oregon based duo who weave lo-fi garage rock, lush power pop and 80’s synth rock into a wonderfully alluring sound that is all their own. On their latest, One Ultra, the record is ultimately billed as the solo EP from Hemmit drummer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Keith Fleming which is confusing because it is still branded under the band name??? It’s too early for this! What’s not confusing is the music is top notch – so much so that they (he) has been featured on MTV and numerous notable radio stations around the world. Fleming makes a captivating case as an artist with a compelling collection of tunes that is ultra fine and all of his making.
• Nashville’s Jay Pounders has all the requisite tools needed to excel in the biz including songwriting skills and musical chops in abundant supply. One listen to his crafty “Bastards” unveils a moody yet pleasing melodic track inspired both by the Arab Spring and a Kris Kristofferson saying. The big reveal is that this S.O.B. and veteran of the CBGBs stage can write a good song.
• American rocker Jefferson Thomas ( www.jeffersonthomas.com) has made a bold declaration on his recent Play Hurt album that has all the signature elements he’s been honing for a lifetime – determined vox and jangly guitars all bound together on a path of classic rock meets retro soul. With consistent quality and conviction throughout this one hurts so good.
• Brooklyn indie’s rock/pop outfit LadyChild will leave you breathless with their dramatic soundscape that is “Man Overboard”. Clocking in at four minutes and 31 seconds complete with jazzy undertones and frontwoman Genevieve Faivre’s torrent of emotions this one will leave you floating even as you’re swept away.
• Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s my favorite artists were mostly strong male singer songwriter types like Jackson Browne, Tom Petty and Neil Young. Somehow the artist known as MIZ (www.mikemizmusic.com) conjures up thoughts of all three of them on the opening track to his new full-length release. “Being Good at Being Blue” is a colorful and strong start for the musician who also sounds like he could be right at home jamming with Bruce and Joe G on the Jersey shore. As for the rest of A Year Ago Today we’re not sure if he hits this peak again. But, he does come close on the slower “I Will Take You Home” and the plaintive closer “Stay Today Forever”. It will interesting to see where Mike Mizwinski finds himself a year from now.
• Toronto’s Andrew Oliver is better known as Nightshifts and on “Next To Me” the latest single from his debut EP he is part Neil Young plus Wayne Coyne weaved together with an impressive use of vintage synths and groovy guitars that will find you wanting to gravitate even closer to the artist who is creating a wonderful niche with his soulful and cosmic pop tunes.
• Hailing from Sweden the State Cows (www.statecows.com) keep things moving along nicely with their purposeful “I Got The Message” which finds the duo putting their own spin on West Coast AOR in the style of Steely Dan, Toto, Chicago and Doobie Brothers. There’s a lot of meat on the bones here and we’re fans of their tasty offerings.
• Sydney Brown (www.sydneybrownmusic.com) is the daughter of former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and she’s now taking social matters into her own hands by releasing a charity single for California fire relief. It’s safe to say that the peppy 16-year old veteran singer is turning up the heat on a poppy dance track produced by industry legend Narada Michael Walden. The devastating conflagrations that decimated much of the Golden State last year really hit close to home for the artist so she penned “Love Is Stronger Than Smoke And Fire”. It’s always tough to find silver linings in the face of such tragedies but in this case a true talent has risen from the ashes surrounding the Bay Area. She’s got friends and family in high places so let’s hope Sydney stays on the good path. One thing’s for certain – she’s got a long road ahead of her – and there’ll be many more opportunities for her to turn lemons into lemonade and real world aid as she’s done with this statement track.
• Detroit rocks. If you have any doubt all you need to do is check under the hood of the Tommy Marz Band (www.tommymarzband.com). This hard rockin’ trio are powered by three flashy cylinders that drive a determined mix of energetic hard rock. The guys are set to put a few more miles on the road as they prep Seventy-One Trips Around The Sun that features Tommy’s most personal songwriting offering to date and a worthy take on the Stone Temple Pilots classic “Tumble In The Rough”. They’re just getting revved up and they look ready to go far!
See ya next month!
ABOUT US: Sights and Sounds of Note column editors Richard J. Lynch and Laura Turner Lynch are longtime activists in the music industry currently living in America’s “It City” while managing MusicCityNashville.net (www.musiccitynashville.net). For the past two decades they together have reviewed thousands of concerts and music releases through their popular network of music promotion websites.
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). He is now boldly asking music fans from around the world to support his efforts in achieving One Million Downloads (www.onemilliondownloads.com) of his modern sounding classic rock songs.