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Elysium
Elysium
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5.0 out of 5 stars etc. in E Major, July 26, 2015
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This review is from: Elysium (Audio CD)
having a song in E Major on A Major project like this is only A minor setback. but all kidding aside, this is a great album! I'll admit I'm not a big fan of the album title or the self-serving cover photo. but as with all albums, the music is the only real important thing. and this is a fantastic disc of tunes! Al's sense of composition is as strong and sharp as ever. most songs start out with his signature sense of style on acoustic guitar with heavy influences in Spanish classical and American folk. then it is layered appropriately with fine and impressive electric guitar leads that reflect Al's journey from his beginnings right up to present day. I hear there are no drums on this album, but there is plenty of percussion breathing rhythmic life into this superb piece of work with Al's telltale Spanish and jazz/rock tempos in a manner that you would expect from this fusion guitar hero! I was going to mention some of the impressive work by other musicians in this project, but frankly, the writing on the cover is too small for these old eyes to read. Suffice to say the bass, percussion and scant keyboards on this disc are all well done and compliment this delightful new fusion work admirably. over all, this is just a sparkling gem of new tunes by this fusion giant. And if I tell you this disc is a must-have, that's just A Sharp observation on my part in B Flat.


Visions of the Emerald Beyond
Visions of the Emerald Beyond
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4.0 out of 5 stars visions of an orange album, June 27, 2015
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after 3 successful albums that helped define and popularize jazz fusion, John McLaughlin chose to dismember Mahavishnu Orchestra and replace everyone in the band so he could take this experiment in different directions. he replaced the violinist with Jean-Luc Ponty (fresh out of Frank Zappa & The Mothers). he replaced the keyboardist with Gayle Moran (Chick Corea's wife). he took up Ralphe Armstrong on bass and Nerada Michael Walden on drums. his choice to add a 5-piece string section and a 3-piece horn section to add new textures to the music was a wise one. the actual orchestral feel on spots that draw very near to classical music in the right moments really worked well. unfortunately, McLaughlin also chose to add vocals on 3 or 4 tunes on this 12-tune disc. the vocals are not at all horrible.....but they seem out-of-place and unnecessary on a MO album. I would have preferred this disc to remain entirely instrumental like most of their previous works. still overall, this is a very pleasant and enjoyable album. of course as always, MO rocks! McLaughlin's great imagination, original sense of composition and time signatures remains as constant as his masterful rocking electric guitar work! the man is a genius! Ponty's solos are brilliantly hot! this is a very worthy, impressive and listen-able MO album that is a MUST for those who love great music, rocking fusion and any fan or student of incredible, original guitar.
I've said it before and I'll say it again..............NOBODY writes, plays or delivers like McLaughlin!


Storytelling
Storytelling
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5.0 out of 5 stars here's the story: great album!, June 21, 2015
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This review is from: Storytelling (Audio CD)
his last album of the 1980s, Jean-Luc leaves this decade behind in fine style. this is his first 5-star album since Individual Choice. I first bought this album on vinyl when it originally came out and I'm glad I finally got the CD. Individual Choice was his initial escape from traditional jazz/fusion with a more electronica journey meant to prove that he could not endlessly be stuffed into a never-ending fusion mold. Since then, his search for a new musical identity has been an evolutionary process. attempts to blend his old-time fusion and jazz with his new-found electronica while adding new aspects of his developing persona which includes a touch of rock and a healthy dose of his extensive classical training gradually improved with each passing album.....culminating in this wonderful disc. he does not play as much of his own keyboards on this album as on a few of the recent previous albums, but he does play a fair amount of the keyboards on this disc in addition to his signature violin. and of course, for anyone looking to hear Jean-Luc's incredible violin work, this disc will NOT disappoint! there are a lot of great violin moments here. helping out on keyboards including a few jazzy piano solos is Wally Minko. Ponty kept drummer Rayford Griffin and bassist Baron Browne on staff from his past few albums, which was a great choice. and he brought back guitarist Jamie Glaser from the Mystical Adventures days on a few tunes. Glaser does a fine job on the rhythms which reflect a more complex compositional sense than on most previous albums. And Glaser only gets to boast one solo which is on acoustic guitar. Still, all his performances are first-rate. a rare appearance of jazz sax serves as a very pleasant surprise on one tune, and it is given out admirably by the incomparable Grover Washington Jr. Patrice Rushen rejoins Jean-Luc for a brief synth stint on one tune. And the album ends with a duet of Jean-Luc on classical/jazz violin over piano played by Clara Ponty (Jean-Luc's daughter, I believe) playing with a respectful version of a familiar Chopin prelude.....a great way to end a wonderful album!
the increased attention to composition complexity and blending of a greater number of influences from his past gradually improved over his previous few albums, leading to this great disc which truly brings out his positively developing musical persona. it's not just fusion anymore! this is an important 5-star addition to Ponty's library that every fan of this violin virtuoso should have!


Gift of Time
Gift of Time
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4.0 out of 5 stars metamorphosis, June 8, 2015
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This review is from: Gift of Time (Audio CD)
this was a really pleasant continuation of Jean-Luc's era of playing his own keyboards (in addition to his signature brilliant violin work) while moving beyond traditional jazz/fusion. his first album in that vain in '84 called Individual Choice was brilliant! the next year's follow-up Open Mind was nice but not nearly as good or inspired. the next album Fables was more of a band effort, although Ponty still played a lot of the keyboards. on Fables, Ponty tries to break away from the 'electronica' format he'd experimented with on the previous 2 albums.....at least somewhat......maintaining some of that framework but mixing a little jazz, some rock, some of his classical training and a little new aspect of his personality in a more band-driven effort. It came together fairly well. and that brings us to this next 1987 follow-up, The Gift of Time. Ponty tries to continue in the same vain.....doing all his own keyboards while doing a band-driven album. and of course, there is plenty of Ponty's violin genius on this album! he brought Pat Thomi in on guitar for a few songs on this disc He plays well, but Pat stays in the background, playing light rhythms but no leads. Pat's parts, although sometimes impressive, blend into the music and rarely stand out. the total lack of guitar solos on this album is disappointing, but it's still a fine album and a continued improvement over Fables. Jean-Luc more finely honed his mix of jazz, rock, electronica, the classical influence and those aspects of Jean-Luc that had previously gone unexplored. he begins The Gift of Time with a 1-minute Prologue that is a new take on his violin effects solos. from there, he takes off on an interesting journey of compositions that are more complex and mature than many of his previous albums. Baron Browne does a great job on bass and Rayford Griffin is wonderful on drums. one tune near the end is a beautiful 7-minute solo of nearly classical electric violin over spacy synthesizers. unlike Individual Choice and Open Mind, there are no sequencers on this album. it's all composition, a bit lighter than the fusion days, but a very pleasant album......and an important stepping stone to the music Jean-Luc has done more recently. I love having this album. It's classic Jean-Luc!!


Casino
Casino
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5.0 out of 5 stars classic DiMeola, classic fusion!, April 21, 2015
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This review is from: Casino (Audio CD)
Al DiMeola deserves his reputation as a fusion guitar god. This is a short but brilliant fusion classic that's a pleasure to own. There are not a lot of jams on this disc, but as always, when Al does jam, he "rocks with class". There is no shortage of excellent guitar work or overall musicianship here. Al's ever-present sense of composition with a Spanish flair is the main ingredient. It's electric fusion, impressive and elegant. The rest of the band including Jan Hammer and Mingo Lewis all played their supporting roles in excellent form. Although considered a member of The A Team in Return to Forever, Al was not an original member of the band Therefore, he did not record the original Chick Corea tune Senor Mouse. So he made up for that by doing his own version with his own slant on the composition and Jan Hammer covering the keyboards. Real sweet! And his acoustic duet with the late Paco DeLucia called Fantasia Suite for Two Guitars was beautiful! Al and Paco redid that tune on the live Friday Night in San Francisco album they recorded with John McLaughlin........but this original studio version is wonderful. Without over-talking this disc, it's a real pleasant short instrumental work of '70s fusion with that distinctive flair that deftly proves that Al is one of the fusion guitar kings!


Original Album Series
Original Album Series
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4.0 out of 5 stars without love, where would you be now??, April 10, 2015
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This review is from: Original Album Series (Audio CD)
this is an impressive collection of the first 5 albums from a classic southern rock band of the '70s. their first 2 albums were by far their best. the first album, Toulouse Street, was a fantastic disc, featuring the 3 big hits, Listen to the Music, Rocking Down the Highway and Jesus is Just Alright. the group's frontmen, Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons served up a great mix of rock and pop mixed well with folk and a touch of Calypso (on one tune). Over all, The Doobies did not lean on the blues nearly as much as most other southern rock bands, but this first album offered a decent dose of blues as well. With a few jamming guitar spots and a few moments of inspired, impressive composition, this first album came together as a great '70s rock album. The second album, The Captain and Me, is just as wonderful. This disc gave us the 4 big hits, China Grove, Long Train Runnin', Without You and South City Midnight Lady. they faded away from the blues influence on this disc, but they managed to maintain a great sound with the right amount of attention paid to offering strong composition and worthwhile guitar jams. by the third album, the pressures of the music biz was starting to get to them. this is evidenced by the fact that What Were Once Vises Are Now Habits only gave us one big hit, Black Water. in all fairness, after a few years of record execs keeping you either on tour or in the studio, it's hard to find the time to be creative. this third album had a few great spots (including ending with a sweet short instrumental) and a few good rocking moments, but overall this disc didn't quite measure up to the first two. they bounced back in fine form on the fourth album, Stampede. although it only gave us the one big hit Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me), this album nearly matched the magic of the first two records. great writing with attention to rock, folk, composition and guitar leads make this a much more worthy disc. they drifted in a different direction on the fifth album, Taking it to the Streets. Tom Johnston's influence can be felt, which is a good thing. however, he left halfway thru the album. Michael McDonald, who'd just left Steely Dan, stepped into the breach. he brought a funkier side to the group, as shown by the title hit and the other big hit, It Keeps You Runnin'. a bit of a jazzier side is displayed in tunes like For Someone Special, which got some radio play, but didn't make huge hit status. this album had some great moments, but was a little more spotty and forced than some of their earlier works. it definitely helped to launch Michael's solo career. and although Michael led them to one or two more big hits on subsequent albums, this collection holds the lion's share of the doobie's big hits and greatest moments.
again, there are a few spotty moments but overall this is a fantastic collection of albums that mark an important chapter in the world of classic southern rock. this music screams "The '70s"! it's a great example of what made the early 70s the best era in Rock & Roll!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 29, 2015 8:04 AM PDT


Three Friends
Three Friends
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5.0 out of 5 stars peel the paint, March 25, 2015
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This review is from: Three Friends (Audio CD)
I can't say I've heard everything from this talented British progressive rock/pop band, but I've heard a good number of their albums. And though most of those albums are pleasant, this is the one absolutely MUST-HAVE album they gave us. I'm not an expert on their personnel either, but I know that between the 5 amazing musicians in this group, they can deftly cover almost every instrument you can realistically imagine. And they play a large array of instruments on this short but fabulous prog-rock album. And more-so than on a number of their other albums, they know when to stop singing and let their impressive musicianship take center stage. I am not knocking their vocal talents. Their singing, melodies and intricate vocal harmonies are a definite positive element in all their albums. Their compositions (vocal & musical) are always wonderful. But on this album, they know when to lose the vocals and let the gorgeous musical compositions and solos take over. Sometimes they go right into the heavy rock and roll.......that's great too! This is a concept album that tells a story. It's not complex or hard to follow: the Prologue gives you the overview that there are 3 friends who are best friends in school......but they grow up and life doesn't always allow things to stay that way. The song School Days of course starts the story in school where the 3 friends promise to be friends forever. Then, Working All Day shows one of them went into the blue-collar direction, working with his hands. The song, Peel the Paint shows that one decided to become an artist. The tune Mr. Class & Quality shows that one friend went in the white-collar direction and had to choose his friends carefully if he wanted to climb the corporate ladder. The closing title tune recaps how even though 3 friends promise to stay friends forever, they can grow up.....life happens.......they go in different directions.....oh well....life goes on.
So to sum up, a short but great British prog-rock album. Sometimes intricate, impressive musicianship and vocal harmonies. They know when to sing and when to stop and let music and composition do the talking. Once or twice they lean in a very rock direction! This is one album where a talented band really brought it all together! If you like prog-rock and for some reason you can only get one Gentle Giant album, this is the one!
Trust me!!


Runt
Runt
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4.0 out of 5 stars there are no words, March 24, 2015
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This review is from: Runt (Audio CD)
I believe this is Todd's first solo album. It's a real pleasant listening experience. Todd is usually best remembered for his lighter pop hits. And indeed this album offered the one big pop hit We Gotta Get You a Woman. It's a nice tune and there are other good songs in that vain on this disc. But Todd, like so many others, is at his best when he serves up albums that add some spice and material that has some "meat on the bone" i.e. some rock & roll, some variety...you know, more than just quick pop. This album delivers! Todd plays most of the instruments: guitars, piano, keyboards and even some backing sax. Aside from bass and drums, Todd plays nearly all instruments and does all vocal harmonies too. In those days, the early '70s, that sort of thing was just beginning to gain popularity, due to growing technology with double-tracking. The Beatles' influence was more obvious than it has been in subsequent decades. Todd shows a definite influence from the fab four on this album, including a medley of 3 half-songs in the pop vain that are glued together in an undeniable nod to Abbey Road. The opening tune has a more rocking taste that shows Todd's ability to play 2 lead guitar tracks at the same time......a great opening! There are a few other rock tunes that show off Todd's lead guitar talents......especially the 9-minute closing Birthday Carol, which also has a touch of orchestra. There is also a tune that has no lyrics, despite its panorama of Todd's vocal harmonies.......a strange addition to the album that works! There is nice pop, impressive rock, strange moments (some with spacy keyboards) and even a dash of humor. This is a fine and worthy album that I am happy to have....and recommend.


ECM Touchtones: Bass Desires
ECM Touchtones: Bass Desires
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4.0 out of 5 stars mojo highway, March 23, 2015
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this is a very pleasant jazz & fusion album. Johnson plays some fine doghouse bass on this rather intriguing disc that skirts back and forth over the borders of instrumental electric jazz and fusion. It doesn't really get too rowdy, but it does have a lively electric feel that is spiced with rocking jams in the appropriate spots. John Scofield offers his impressive guitar talents in a light, fluid, jazzy style that I often feel resembles that of Pat Metheny. John's guitar is a sweet gift to this album. Bill Frisell also delivers his wonderful guitar & guitar-synth talents that can complement and deftly contrast John's work with Bill's spicy, unique style that can hit you with a more rocking punch in the places that need that extra punch. Marc usually lays in the background with an easy-going doghouse bass. He occasionally steps up with an impressive solo, but he does not step forward or show off as much as you would expect from the album's star performer. He has a few shining moments.......he always sounds good, but seldom shows off. The final piece to this equation is Peter Erskine, a man who has been the drummer for many great bands (including Weather Report and Steely Dan). Peter does a wonderful job drumming on this real fine album. Sometimes this disc is rhythmic and melodic, sometimes it's more rambling, ambling and jazzy. It's pleasant, jamming.....sometimes more jazz, sometimes more fusion......but it's definitely a mighty fine slab of instrumental music delivered by a great group of musicians! I'm glad I found this on CD!


Utopia
Utopia
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5.0 out of 5 stars take your place in the freak parade (get off the sidewalk!), March 23, 2015
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This review is from: Utopia (Audio CD)
by far, Todd's best album and arguably the best American progressive rock album ever! I won't over-talk this album. It is just a fantastic prog-rock album and a tremendous surprise coming from Todd. 1974 was a freaky year for Rundgren, and without a doubt, it was his best year! In addition to this masterpiece, he also released the solo album Todd: which was another album that boasted a strong, drug-addled sense of artistry and toying with (what was at the time) modern technology in that same year. But this album, Todd Rundgren's Utopia, Todd took an unexpected turn into the artistically intricate and impressive world of progressive rock....and he did it in grand style! He assembled a very talented group of musicians. Todd himself stayed with the guitar for the whole album, which is unusual. He normally likes to switch to piano and keyboards sometimes. But on this album, he lets Moogy Klingman and Ralph Schuckett take the keyboards so he can focus on making this his hottest display of rocking guitar work ever. This album is just stupendous prog-rock with long tunes featuring long instrumental passages that flaunt incredible compositions that are the hallmark of the kind of prog-rock that typically comes out of England (or other parts of Europe). Again, I don't want to over-talk this album.......Todd's rare and greatest venture into prog-rock.......an incredible prog-rock album featuring great guitar work by Todd with fantastic attention to intricate, artistic, rocking composition. I don't know what got into Todd in '74, but I wish he held onto it a few years longer. He never had a great year like this afterward......even when he kept the band Utopia together after this point......they just never even tried to match this level of excellence after this unbelievable album!


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