Like a universe of infinite possibilities a New Year beckons to be explored as it unfolds all around us. For the trip that will be forever known as A.D. 2017 we recommend packing the soothing strains of exceptional music. Here’s some suggestions for your journey.
What better way to help you lift off into the New Year than the expansive and overwhelming Space Rock: An Interstellar Traveler’s Guide - a 6 disc supernova box set of the universe’s finest music courtesy of Purple Pyramid Records. In fact, this one might take a full 365 days to completely absorb but it’s well worth the effort. There are plenty of giants of the galaxy here including legendary acts like Hawkwind, Gong, Tangerine Dream, Alice Cooper, Nektar, and more! Joining these mythic figures is a broad assortment of lesser known satellites from the sphere of prog and experimental music. This one-of-a-kind set with each CD prepped in its own individually designed jacket is gathered together in a deluxe 7x7 box with oversized booklet featuring liner notes by music journalist Dave Thompson, band biographies, photos, and out of this world artwork! Start exploring today.
Al Di Meola is a jazz, Latin, and rock fusion guitar legend with 20 plus records to his credit. Al has been amazing listeners with his complex compositions for over four decades. On Di Meola’s most current release Elysium his experience and expertise shines brightly on 14 innovative instrumental tracks. On the album cover is a head and shoulders shot of the guitarist topless expressing confidence in who he is as a person. In the liner notes Al shares that he is at a “more inspired and happy existence.” The music inside is a manifestation of that confidence and joy. Di Meola is backed by a talented team of players exploring a wide range of tempos, textures and world tones. On Elysium Al blends the lush leads of his nylon string Conde Hermanos acoustic prototype model and a ‘71 Les Paul electric (his Return to Forever and Elegant Gypsy axe) in a collection of songs that are varied and vibrant. Al will continue to tour in 2017 in support of Elysium delighting fans with his classic and contemporary material.
Johnny Neel is a well-known pianist/organist, harmonica player and composer. During his tenure with the Allman Brothers Band, Neel co-wrote a number of songs for the Seven Turns album including the number one hit “Good Clean Fun.” Johnny aptly blends the blues, funk, jazz, R&B, gospel, country and southern rock stylings into one deep-rooted sound that keeps him in demand by many top music industry professionals across the world. Neel’s latest release 66/16 is a 32 track, double disc showcasing songs dating back to 1966 through 2016. The music runs in chronological order following the evolution of Johnny Neel the artist. Disk one reflects the simpler production of the 1960’s slowly transitioning to more complex compositions. A variety of musical genres are represented on 66/16 including Allman’s influenced blues/rock and quite a bit of soul. The collection also reveals Johnny’s skill as a songwriter with insightful songs such as the heartfelt “Craving For Love” and the stark yet searing “Society Hill.” There are a number of contemplative piano vocal pieces along with some moving spirituals on 66/16. Johnny Neel has been the real deal for a long time and this 2-CD set is a comprehensive retrospective of a diverse and dynamic career.
At one point in the 80s’ fans were calling Night Ranger the new Led Zeppelin with “Sister Christian” being their “Stairway.” This high praise and expectation didn’t exactly pan out but the California hair band did sustain a worthy career as proven on their latest 35 Years And A Night in Chicago which finds the guys still going strong this far down the line. This release celebrates the launch of the group’s 35th anniversary, more than 17 million albums sold worldwide, over 3000 live shows performed. Night Ranger has been the epitome of arena rock while managing to transcend the genre’s limitations. Watch and listen Jack Blades, Brad Gillis and company deliver the powerful goods with an explosive and nocturnal climax as they range through their signature rockers and ballads such as “When You Close Your Eyes,” “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me,” “(You Can Still) Rock In America,” and, of course, “Sister Christian.” This one will leave you, motoring.
Enuff Z’nuff are a favored purveyor of glitter rock and power pop. On Clowns Lounge the guys slap on the make-up once again as they reboot the band without a key member of their posse. Their lead singer Donnie stepped away in 2013 disillusioned by the business and facing health issues. Chip Z’nuff stepped in with a plan for how to deal with the departure saying, “When Peter Gabriel left Genesis, Phil Collins took over lead vocal duties. That is exactly the template we used here as now I front the band and look forward to moving it into the future.” With this new beginning underway all it took was a call from music executive Derek Shulman, and the rest was history. Chip continues, “We had unfinished, unreleased material in the vault, and I went back into the studio in Chicago and started working on all the songs.” The best of the batch are the Elvis Costello-ish “Radio” and the anthemic “Back In Time.” With special appearances from the late Jani Lane (of Warrant) and James Young of Styx on “The Devil Of Shakespeare,” Enuff Z’nuff has re-pitched their tent and just like the circus they’re sure to come around again - there’s no time left for lounging.
Prog-rock legends Kaipa DaCapo with Roine Stolt (Flower Kings/Transatlantic) released Dårskapens Monotoni in the fall of 2016.The Swedish band Kaipa has had a cult following since their inception in the 1970’s. In 2014, original Kaipa band members Stolt, Bergman, and Eriksson re-grouped under the name Kaipa DaCapo to perform songs from the first three Kaipa albums as well as create new music. The three were joined by Stolt’s younger brother Mikael on vocals and guitar, and renowned Swedish keyboardist Max Lorentz. The album translation is “Folly Monotony” and reflects the band’s classic sound with contemporary elements sung in Swedish. The record is a prog pageantry of delicate to dynamic instrumentation in lavish and lengthy compositions. Each song is engaging but we particularly enjoyed “Tonerna” which had moments that made us think of Pink Floyd melding with Phish. This piece flowed into the mesmerizing closer “Monoliten.” The band comments “yes the new album - 7 new songs - all classic Kaipa sound - yet new twists-we are excited - hope you will be too” - we think fans will be.
After releasing their critically acclaimed New World record the melodic prog trio known as The Raptor Trail has rolled out Devil on an Indian. This 10 track CD is a concept project telling the tale of a young man’s spiritual journey as he deals with his Native American Indian heritage and his Christian up-bringing. A serious motorcycle accident in the desert takes him down a mystical and poetic path that is told in three musical movements by The Raptor Trail. “Ten Bears” the opening track has a heavy reflective mood that showcases the band’s skill and storytelling punctuated by solid guitar solos. This pattern paired with mini jams is effectively used throughout this platter. “Dream Catcher” in part two is a drummer’s dream with its persuasive percussion patterns. Part three features intense instrumentation to bring this thematic CD to a fine but not necessarily happy close. Devil on an Indian is an insightful record with plenty of twists and turns to keep the listener intrigued.
Tobin Sprout has sprung a new album onto the world and The Universe and Me is his first full album in seven years and we say - that’s too long. The former Guided By Voices guitarist has prepped his forward thinking first single of the album “Future Boy Today / Man Of Tomorrow” that published sources are calling an “electric psych-pop gem.” Along the way you’ll discover sonic strains similar to the “Magical” era of the Beatles that works well on the album’s 14-tracks that draw a lot on Sprout’s experiences publishing children’s books. Many of the songs act like a diorama of a boy’s imagination drawing inspiration from Tobin’ childhood fascination with superheroes. Even with heavier subjects like aging and the fear of death you’ll find Sprout’s musical journey overall is a good trip!
EVEN MORE NOTABLE RELEASES! Faithless Town is an American rock band led by singer-songwriter Gene Owens. Formed in 2008 in Atlanta and currently based in Los Angeles, the band is now branching out from their Americana Rock roots, as their new Empires is an eclectic album ranging in music styles as diverse as 80’s Pop and New Wave to Folk and Grunge. A vast theme of imperialism pervades the album in multiple senses. You can hear on the lead single “Waste Away” that draws inspiration from The Smiths and David Bowie how the group is building something powerful and lasting with their drums and guitars.
The Gloria Story continues to unfold as the high energy, electric rock act from Sweden decides to hone their music to the core, transforming their trademark 70’s sound into a more unplugged affair. The new version of their most successful track “Roadtrip” is stripped down with the sound centered around two acoustic guitars, soaring vocal harmonies and a vintage analogue KORG drum machine from the early 80’s that brings a unique and warm beat. It’s enough to make you want to go with them.
Quinn Hedges is a singer/songwriter based out of Sacramento, California who after nearly three years of hard work has released his fourth studio album titled, Slightly South of Stormy Clouds. The lead single “You Don’t Even Know” is a slice of sophisticated pop that rolls along nicely while it’s punctuated with a stirring string section and a tasty lead lick. If you didn’t know Quinn before, good chance you will soon.
Rökkva is an Icelandic band founded in the town of Selfoss in 2015. The group is made out of some experienced musicians that have been playing for years. Their first job together was to go directly to the biggest studio in Iceland, Studio Sýrland to record. The first album was released in late 2016 and by the sound of By Your Tree the act has sunk its roots deep in an atmospheric and emotional style that will be sure to rock and grab ya.
Jason Springs from Danville, Virginia has released his debut Blue Collar Bones & Busted Knuckles. You can hear the effort put into these songs that evolved from folk tunes into a full band project. The album has a little bit of everything on it from Americana, alt-country, red dirt roots, blues and more. Jason is well on his way with a collection that proves hard work pays off.
Jupiter Falls are a heavy rock five-piece hailing from Leeds, England. The quintet is road-tested and ready to battle with their latest single “This Is A War We Can Not Win” that excites as it roams territory previously conquered by the likes of Guns N Roses, Avenged Sevenfold, Metallica, Alter Bridge or more. Put this one on repeat and you’ll agree they are poised to become giants in the musical galaxy.
David and Brittany Farkas have released their debut album Smilin’. This mix of pop, folk, and rock is certainly pleasing even as their title track takes on serious matters. The song was written by Brittany after meeting an amazing gentlemen recovering from a stroke. It has a bit of a gospel feel to it. The husband and wife songwriting team from Orange County aim to uplift and their first effort will leave you smiling, that’s for sure.
See ya next month!
Richard J. Lynch and Laura Turner Lynch are the founders of MusicCityNashville.org
, 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
). 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