Album Reviews

Neal Morse - Morsefest! 2014 - Testimony And One Live

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In these modern times, talking of bringing an entire Prog-Rock show to the masses, like the one the California-born Prog-Rock Phenomenon Neal Morse did, is somehow an authentic miracle. A miracle made of sheer passion and belief for a genre that has created the platform, back in the 70's, for the whole rock generation of the 80's and 90's.  Morsefest! 2014 is not one of those Pomp And Circumstances type of releases but a real musical celebration of the genre of phenomenal quality,  through the generous album package of 4 CDs and 2 DVDS.

Neal Morse, through his solo career and previously with bands of the calibre of Transatlantic, Spock's Beard and Flying Colors, has maintained very successfully that music integrity and deep respect towards this music style that made and still make of him one of the most  respected musicians not just only within the Progressive Music World but worldwide.

Morsefest! 2014 is something that unconsciously, must have been in the back of Morse's mind for quite sometimes, although just thanks to an insisting church Pastor and an inspiring talk to Morse's wife, it finally saw the light of the day.

The live album includes the whole two-days setlist, in which Morse played two of his most pivotal albums, Testimony and One in their entirety. Despite the vaste quantity of music on this quadruple CD, there is never a dull moment throughout the whole performances. Through the extraordinary support of his long time fellow friend musician Mike Portnoy and a full orchestra behind him, Morse tells, through these two albums, his whole autobiography in music with such passion, devotion and honesty second to none, especially in tracks like "Long Story" "...

The girl I loved went off and got married to a millionaire, for fifty dollars I'd play five hours in the desert air. Some of us have to hit bottom before we'll ever see above the ground...".

There are some real special moments in this live album; Morse does not leave behind his many music side projects and the little masterpieces he wrote with them and use such wonderful music creations as part of his Encores. When everyone at these shows thought they had been blessed, by witnessing the Spock's Beard wonderful renditions of Wind At My Back or The Light, they certainly did not see coming the gigantic 30-minutes-plus version of the classic Stranger In Your Soul by Transatlantic. No better way to close the whole life circle in music for Neal Morse and his devoted fans on this weekend of Progressive feast.

The magnitude of the album, the artistry of Morse and the whole array of musicians accompaining him are first class. Even the slightly indulging instrumental moments can be easily forgiven, given the spectacular level of craftmanship on this live album. For Those About To Prog Rock, as Neal Morse certainly represents beautifully, We Salute You.

 

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

 

 

Morsefest 2014! will be released on 21st August 2015 and can be purchased Here

Old Glory And The Wild Revival - Jared James Nichols

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It is almost a twist of fate the fact that Jared James Nichols was born and raised in the same street where the legendary Stevie Ray Vaughan had his final concert, before Vaughan's passing. Nichols, despite his young age, has already accumulated a highly noticeable "Palmares" of attention in the music business, both by fellow artists, for which he has been opening as a support act through the years (from Derek Trucks to ZZ Top!) and blues/rock fans.

His 2012 EP debut, Live At The Viper Room, was already a true statement of his guitar ability combined with a very poweerful voice. Nichols' deep understanding about rock and blues is highly remarkable and his first, full-length album, Old Glory And The Wild Revival is a clear demonstration of such knowledge, acquired through many years of live performing.

Nichols doesn't pull back in any moment of the record; Now Or Never and Come On In My Kitchen smell of old-fashion-feet-stomping blues canteens, whilst Can You Feel It? is still bluesy and ballsy and, at the same time, carrying lovely memories of the first AC/DC period with Bon Scott.

Playin' For Keeps, both as studio and live version is pure, boombastic rock, with Dennis Holm on drums commanding the different change of tempos whilst Nichols' guitar solo, especially on the live version that close the album, is an absolute joy to listen to. The greatest aspect of this track is Nichols' thunderous guitar, which is able to suspend the listeners in a music time capsule, half a way between Hendrix's sound and Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard best guitar riffs ever.

Jared James Nichols flexes his music muscles superbly throughout the record, showing a superb variety of skills, both as a musician and as a singer.

If Old Glory And The Wild Revival is a truly tasty aperitive for Nichols' career, blues/rock lovers are in for a great hangover of music treats for the years to come.

 

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

 

 

Old Glory And The Wild Revival can be purchased on Amazon

Jared James Nichols Infos and Tour Dates are available at the following link: Jared James Nichols

Groove Is King - Rock Candy Funk Party

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It is a true blessing, in the present music generation, to see and hear still musicians that fuse together the idea of evolution and improvisation, translating it into the music they love the most. Groove Is King mirrors perfectly this concept. Put together an ensemble of highly refined and skilled musicians, willing to explore different music styles, 70's and 80's samples and tease their audience with sudden change of tempos and there you will find Rock Candy Funk Party.

Once just a duo project and started in 2007 by Tal Bergman on drums and Ron DeJesus on guitar,  the idea of instrumentally mashing together the results of music experiences collected through the years went exponentially massive, in the minds of these two musicians. So much that Bergman (band leader and producer of RCFP) and DeJesus decided to join forces with guitar genius Joe Bonamassa and one of the best bass player in the American circuit, Mike Merritt, to form Rock Candy Funk Party.

We Want O' Groove, their first album released in 2013, saw Renato Neto on keyboards completing the line-up of the band, in what proved to be a fabulous free-form album, in which the interplay between the band members created a stunning crossover of instrumental recording of soul, jazz, funk and fusion.

Groove Is King is the natural progression of their previous album. There is a total escapism of the whole band from any music parameter in each individual track of this highly palatable album. This time around though, RCFP have gone even one notch further by adding a horn section of the highest standard, by having Randy Brecker on trumpet, James Campagnola on saxophone and Ada Rovatti on saxophone too. To complete the ensemble of such a spectacular line-up, Daniel Sadownick on percussion and Fred Kron on keyboards bring that extra spice that serves perfectly the experimental structure of this All-Star Band.

The whole album is a full disassemble and a clear representation of the band's name and musical meaning. You can get the "Rock" effect by listening to the title-track Groove Is King or Uber Station, not to mention the presence of the great Billy Gibbons as Guest MC on the intro and two segues of the album.

The "Candy" come through tracks like If Six Was Eight, a fabulous tribal duet between Bergman and Sadownick and Rock Candy, a 70's jazz tune that carries memories of John Scofield's sound style, with a fabulous bass line by Mike Merritt. On the same tune, Bonamassa's guitar solos take charge in such a gigantic way half a way of the track. The power, fluidity and class shown by Bonamassa on the Rock Candy's tune are really something  special. Personally, I feel they are some of the best guitar solos the Italo-American Virtuoso has put on a studio album for quite some time.

 

The "Funk" part is one of the most entertaining of the album, carrying echoes of Prince-meet-Nile Rodgers in the raw and sexy Low Tide or the highly energetic tempo of Don't Funk With Me.

The "Party" factor is what makes this band really extraordinary. There is a special treat for every music lover, from the 70's Saturday Night Disco tempo of Don't Be Stingy With The SMPTE, moving into the groove of The 6 Train To The Bronx, arriving to the Prodigy-meet-The Chemical Brothers-meet-Led Zeppelin stratospheric finale of The Fabulous Tales Of Two Bands.

This record is a clear demonstration of what music is and should be all about; improvisations, craftmanship, deep understanding of music history and a damn fine ability. Big credit to Tal Bergman for assembling such great musicians all together in the same room and believing in one of the most original music projects on the whole music scene worldwide. If this album would be a road, it would be the runway to the future of music. Truly excellent album.

 

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

 

Groove Is King is out now and can be purchased via Mascot Label Group or via Amazon

 

Warren Haynes - Ashes & Dust

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Never give for grant what Warren Haynes' next project may be. In his long and successful career, the American guitarist has often surprised medias and fans with his unpredictable and highly brilliant changes of music direction, incontrovertable sign of great knowledge, appreciation and deep understanding of music at 360 degrees.

Ashes & Dust is a record that Haynes had in his mind for a very long time, given the fact that some of the songs of the album have been written almost 25 years ago. Somehow, though, for various reasons, those songs never managed to fit on any record that Haynes had previously done with the Mule or with the Allman Brothers, right until now.

Lyrically, the album is an intimate excursion into friendship, loss, distance and redemption, sang with that typical honesty and pathos by Haynes. In some aspects, Ashes & Dust, musically speaking, is a true revelation. The guitarist manages to assemble a wonderful combustion of Americana with hints of folk, blues and roots, splendidly supported by the Railroad Earth, a group of musicians that Haynes has been knowing and played with for quite some time. The quality, the beauty and the intensity of Warren Haynes' slide guitar sound too, on this record, is a further demonstration of the immense skills in the music repertoire of the American guitarist/singer/songwriter. 

Blue Maiden's Tale, one of the tracks of the album, echoes almost an ethereal, Celtic type of sound that works wonderfully as a platform for Warren Haynes' lyrics: "There's a story, no one knows if it is true, about a maiden, just as pretty as you."

Haynes' new record is possibly one of the most personal and passionate music journey that this fabulous artist has created throughout his entire career. A truly, fabulous album.

 

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

 

Ashes & Dust can be purchased via Mascot Label Group or via Amazon

Joe Satriani - Shockwave Supernova

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One can say a lot of things about Satriani's ability and eclecticism on playing guitar but never that he is a predictable artist.

Shockwave Supernova is almost a concept album, inspired by the fact that, at the end of his last tour, Satriani felt that on stage he had developed an alter ego, becoming somebody that was carrying out a different side of his personality, wild and incontrollable, whilst performing live.

Satriani is an artist that lets his guitar sing, rather than his own voice and always with astonishing results. Shockwave Supernova is an incredible ensemble of 15, free-formula tracks, in which Satriani concentrates more on a straighter style of guitar playing, rather than gunblazing his formidable array of instrumental rock tones.

The album sees "Satch" teasing his fans, mixing his rock formula with elements of different music genres such as blues, samba, jazz and swing, also thanks to the formidable support of the musicians accompaining the guitarist on this musical journey.

To focus on a few tracks in particular, on this fabulous album, would mean diminishing the masterpiece of an artist at one of the highest peaks of his career. Lost In A Memory, though,  deserves a particular mention; Satriani wrote this tune back in the late '80s and never managed to find the right melody. Now, thanks to the groove brought by Marco Minnemann on drums and Bryan Beller on bass, this spectacular track finally sees the light of the day.

With Shockwave Supernova, the "guitarist extraordinaire" from New York nails one of the best albums of his long-running career. This album speaks to people's heart in a more direct way than his previous works, managing to create a sonic bridge that carries sounds and melodies between the artist and any music fan.

If this is the result of the almost incontrollable Alter-Ego of the American guitarist that emerges during his live shows, many music lovers are in for a treat from now to years to come.

 

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

 

 

Shockwave Supernova is released on 24th July 2015 and can be purchased Here

Joe Satriani World Tour begins 17th September in Europe - US Tour planned early 2016. Find all the details about the Tour by following this Link

 

Galactic - Into The Deep

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The cover of the album says it all about Galactic's intents about taking their music to outer space. An astronaut's helmet with the moon in the background depicts perfectly the mission that the fabulous New Orleans funk collective want to achieve on their new record, Into The Deep.

Masterfully produced by band members and hugely skilled musicians Ben Ellman and Robert Mercurio, the album showcases a series of infectious R&B and Funk-Soul gems, which include guest appearances of some of the most important artists of this genres of the last three decades of music worldwide.

The title track features a Macy Gray at the top of her form. A slow soul number permeated of that grace and class that emerges, as always, through the voice of the Ohio-born diva. This is just one of the many surprises on Into The Deep, though.

JJ Grey's energy and powerful vocal delivery on Higher And Higher, Mavis Staples deep and passionate performance on Does It Really Make A Difference, David Shaw and Maggie Koehrner's outstanding duet on Dolla Diva, make you fall in love with this album deeper and deeper on each listen.

The instrumental numbers are, though, the key factor on the Galactic's album. Long Live The Borgne, Sugar Doosie and most of all, Buck 77, with that classic 70's tempo that ignites memories of Isaac Hayes at his very best, are true testimony of style, ability and artistry of the highest quality of this fantastic band.

Galactic wanted to take their music through the universe and into space with Into The Deep. Mission accomplished, without a doubt.

 

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

 

Into The Deep is released by Provogue, part of Mascot Label Group and can be purchased here

 

 

 

Bottle Full Of Blues - Jeff Fetterman

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It has been a long journey for Jeff Fetterman, since his 1999 debut album, Ordinary Man, to record Bottle Full Of Blues, perhaps the album of a lifetime. This extraordinary bluesman from Pennsylvania has exponentially increased his popularity, through the years, with fans and media by combining a winning combustion of blues, rock and funk, the very same formula that brought him to write Bottle Full Of Blues.

The album is an elegant exercise of songwriting skills and phenomenal music ability, not just by Fetterman himself but by the whole array of musicians performing on the album too. In that respect, the instrumental Devil's Shuffle pitches to perfection the craftmanship of the whole band, with Fetterman, Otis James on Harmonica, Anthony Brown on keys and Ralph Reitinger III teasing one another in this brilliant number.

There are lots of radio friendly tracks on the album; the opening Paradise starts as a blues/rock, to then deviating to an irresistible funkadelic tempo. Southbound is a rock tune that would have made Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis ecstatic with joy, with Fettermans' powerful guitar riffs and the band complementing splendidly Fetterman's voice with a muscular performance on this track.

The album title track Bottle Full Of Blues and Wash My Blues Away are delicate, but intense ballads and perhaps the best demonstration of what Jeff Fetterman is all about. Both tracks showcase his incredible guitar ability with some very powerful vocals, as a demonstration of a musical maturity exploding on full blast on this album.

It may be a Bottle Full Of Blues, as the album title suggests, but Jeff Fetterman and his band are far from being uniquely defined as blues musicians. This album, undoubtedly, is a clear statement of Fetterman's music vision and the shape of things to come in his career. A music career that will take him certainly to the zenith of music scene real soon.

 

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

 

Bottle Full Of Blues can be purchased on CD Baby or as a download via Amazon

Vortex - Neal Schon

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Neal Schon is, undoubtedly, having one of his most inspired periods of creativity. His previous album, So U, showed clear signs of the guitarist's return to music excellence, signs re-inforced and confirmed on Schon's new release, Vortex.

The 2-CD all-instrumental album captures the rock guitarist in great form, showing once again his full versatility in this labour of phenomenal skills and craftmanship. A labour of love, too, considering that Schon dedicated, in the sleeve notes of the album, Vortex to his wife Michaele.

Vortex is a delightful album made of incredible rock vignettes, tinted with different elements of world music, jazz, classical and occasionally, even fusion. The opening Miles Beyond is a clear statement of intents on what the album is going to be like; a classy flight on rock experimentations, crafted with the attention to detail by a true Maestro. El Matador, Irish Cream and Airliner NS910 make rocking hearts pulsate even deeper, through Schon's majestic style and Steve Smith thunderous work on drums.

Jan Hammer, one of the most talented keyboardists worldwide is a vital presence on the album too. He and Igor Len add an even vigorous depth to the album by offering, possibly, the best keys on any rock record heard for a very long time. A track like Schon & Hammer Now, is a real demonstration of two musicians at the top of their game and an absolute joy to listen to, whether one may be a rock music fan or not.

There are some beautiful ballads too on the album, such as Tortured Souls, Unspoken Faith and Mom, the latter dedicated to Neal's mother Barbara.

An absolute gem of an album and most certainly a record that comes straight from the heart and soul of the american guitarist. The most sonic masterpiece of Neal Schon ever.

 

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

 

 

 

Vortex is available on Mascot Label Group and Amazon 

Sofia - Left To The Clouds

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Sofia Donavan might be just 18, but very bright sparkles of a hugely promising career can be easily spotted through her new mini album. Left To The Clouds is the second EP released by this young artist, after her 2013 debut called Square One. Sofia's pastiche of folk and country carries echoes of a young Joni Mitchell or maybe a more contemporary Taylor Swift, through the beautiful 5 tracks comprised in the EP. Her lyrics may sound at times slightly sad, still, they always come across by being honest and straight from the heart.

Donavan has put that heart on her sleeves on this record, not just lyrically but also musically speaking. Tracks as If It Wasn’t For Love and Rare As Gold speak volume on the personal life journey that the Hispanic/American Donavan is on. That very same life journey that, through her integrity as an artist, will bring Donavan for sure very far in her music career.

 

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

 

Sofia's Official Website

 

 

 

 

The Only Good Addiction Is Love - Sean Taylor

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The most delicate flowers are often hidden in the most unthinkable places, either a volcanic rock or maybe, sometimes, in a back alley right in the heart of a big city.

The Only Good Addiction Is Love, Taylor's new album, is one of those beautiful flowers; a sincere homage to poetry, literature and art, played with delicacy and intensity through his guitar and that fabulous depth that his voice possesses.

Taylor has been often emphasised the importance of celebrating the power of language in his precedent albums and this new record is no exception. Through this album, Taylor takes a definite step to the world of aesthetics with the charisma and the experience of a modern Troubadour, supported by a superb array of fellow musicians on each individual track.

There are open references to the Spanish writer Federico Garcia Lorca through a couple of tracks, the instrumental Lorca and the sweet Tienes Mi Alma En Tus Manos. The track Rothko, is a fabulous portrait in music dedicated to the expressionist painter Mark Rothko, whose works are very close to the heart of this very talented artist.

The album flows with such beauty and gentility that one almost regrets to have reached the last track on the album. The White Birds, a poem by W B Yeats closes the album superbly, with the Pedal Steel Guitar of Kim Deschamps keeping the up-tempo, whilst the voice of Taylor takes the listeners to that sea so superbly described by Yeats' lyrics, just by closing your eyes and listening to the song.

A true masterpiece in itself. Taylor deserves respect for his love and devotion for the music he creates and his fine ability and skills as a guitarist. The United Kingdom has definitely unleashed, through this record, another phenomenal artist to definite music stardom.

 

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

Sean Taylor's album available on Amazon

Erja Lyytinen - Live In London

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by Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

 

For someone like Erja Lyytinen, being raised listening in her home town in Kuopio, Finland, to many different blues influences, from Son House to Robben Ford, Mississippi John Hurt to Brian Setzer, to play in 2014 at the historic 100 Club venue in London, Uk, must have been a dream come true.

The Finnish artist is now already at her 11th album collectively, between studio, live and collaborative records with other artists. On this live recording, from the opening gospel of It's A Blessing onward, the Finnish artist opens the doors of her music world and her personal music heroes, one of these being the great Elmore James, to which Lyytinen dedicated her previous studio album, The Sky Is Crying. Five of the 11 tracks included in the album are Elmore James' but penned in an outstanding format by Lyytinen through her very personal style. Hints of funk emerge occasionally as well on tracks like Person To Person, showing, once again, the deep understanding Lyytinen has about different music style and how well they can work together. From the whole live album, one track in particular though, still from James' back catalogue, The Sky Is Crying, stands out definitely. Such track demonstrates a level of intensity and an incredible depth by the Finnish artist in playing the slide and singing style, which takes one's breath away throughout the whole duration of the song.

But Erja Lyytinen has got many surprises hidden in her own repertoire; Change Of Season is a splendid blues/rock ballad containing a stunnning solo by Davide Floreno, who co-wrote the song with Lyytinen, Let It Shine has that rousing blues tempo that makes you tap your foot incessantly.

Erja Lyytinen is not just a national treasure for Finland as an artist but for the entire world of Blues/Rock and that emerges once again in this outstanding live album. Her music style is fresh, contemporary, forward-thinking and her voice and stage charisma have got that natural fleur and swagger that just pure artists have got built within themselves. If anyone is not aware yet of Erja Lyytinen, please get this album and enjoy it, you won't be disappointed.

 

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

 

You can see Erja Lyytinen live on Tour next to you at this link: Tour Dates

Album release date: June 8th 2015

Out On The Tiles

Gordon Lightfoot at the Calvin Theatre, The Carefree Highway Tour

"If you want to know my secret.

Don't come running after me. 

"For I am just a painter. Passing through in history."

From, "A Painter Passing Through," Gordon Lightfoot.

Wearing a blue satin vest, pressed white shirt and gentleman's boots, Gordon Lightfoot delivered a rich and elegant performance at the Calvin Theatre on July 13, 2014. The Canadian singer-songwriter legend, honored the Northampton full house, receiving multiple standing ovations throughout the night. With long set list of deep cut classics from his expansive catalog, his warm textured voice continued to deliver the same intensity and drive as it has since his first Toronto recordings in 1962.

When the band walked out and Gordon followed, cheers, whistles and applause filled the room. The band had equal command of the audience. The material played, which changes throughout the tour, was delivered with timeless impact that a group can only master from experience. They brought their history of folk, rock, country, and even a little jazz sound, to multi-generational crowd. For many people who grew up with the 70's singer-songwriter comfort of radio and early folk, the songs were heard through our souls.

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Maine Music News

Dont let the name fool you! Maine Music News provides live concert reviews and photography for shows throughout all of New England. Our photographers cover shows in Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and anywhere else we can! Our writers provide detailed album reviews and expertly written interviews as well. We may be called Maine Music News, but we dont let the Maine border stop us!