ZZ Top Live @ Montreux Is One Of 2014’s Top New Live Recordings

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Eagle Rock Entertainment has, over the years, earned the title from this critic of being the “Leader in Live Recordings.” Eagle Rock has long been the gold standard for live recordings with releases from the likes of Paul McCartney, The Raconteurs, Elton John, Stone Temple Pilots, Slipknot, and so many others across the board. Now yet again, Eagle Rock has proven yet again why it is that gold standard thanks to the brand new release of ZZ Top Live at Montreux 2013. This latest release in Eagle Rock’s ongoing partnership with Montreux Sounds is one more of this year’s top live recordings. It offers audiences a concert loaded with all of the Texas-based trio’s greatest hits and some lesser-known pieces, among which is a fitting tribute to the famed festival’s late founder Claude nobs. The concert’s combined audio and video mix make taking in each of those songs even more of a joy for audiences of all ages. And rounding out the whole thing is a pair of interviews that while relatively short, provide so much insight into the band’s respect for the Montreux festival, music in general and more. All three of these factors together show once again why Eagle Rock remains to this day, the “Leader in Live Recordings,” and why every classic rock and rock fan in general, will enjoy this concert.

The central point of enjoyment in ZZ Top Live at Montreux 2013 is the show’s set list, point blank. The veteran trio—Dusty Hill (bass), Billy Gibbons (guitar), and Frank Beard (drums)—churns out hit after hit throughout the course of the concert’s seventeen-song, eighty-minute show. Among those hits are the likes of ‘Sharp Dressed Man,’ ‘Gimme All your Lovin’,’ and ‘Tush’ just to name a few. As much as audiences will enjoy those favorites, they will also enjoy the band’s cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Foxey Lady’ and the trio’s tribute to late Montreux Jazz Festival founder Claude Knobs in the bluesy/jazzy ‘Kiko.’ The band even brings in a pair of special guest musicians to join in on this number and one other song. The band’s live take of ‘I Gotsta Get Paid’ is another wonderful highlight from this concert. Throughout it all, the trio’s unassuming demeanor set against such solid, driving songs makes for such an interesting experience. It goes to show that a band doesn’t need pyro and loads of special effects and more to make a concert memorable. As long as the band can get the audience moving with its music, that’s the most important factor to the show. And that’s exactly what the members of ZZ Top do in this case. That factor alone makes this recording more than worth the watch.

The set list that makes up ZZ Top’s by itself more than makes this recording worth the watch. It makes it well worth buying for the band’s fans of all ages. Just as worth noting is the concert’s combined audio and video mix. The sound and video are both crystal clear throughout the show’s roughly eighty-minute run time. This is one of those standards that has for the longest time, made Eagle Rock the gold standard in live recordings. Those with home theater systems will especially appreciate the painstaking efforts that went in to bringing this concert to audiences. From the soaring shots above the crowd to the close ups of the band to those of the audience happily singing along, the camerawork in this concert is on par with every concert that Eagle Rock has released in recent years. And the audio mix is just as solid. Again, those with a home theater system will hear this for themselves. That expert audio and visual work together with the show’s set list pushes this recording even more to the top. Putting the recording at the top is the addition of a pair of interviews with Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill in which the pair discuss what the Montreux Festival means to them, their thoughts on Claude Nobs and more.

The finishing touch to ZZ Top’s new live recording is the inclusion of a pair of backstage interviews with Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill. The interviews are short. They run about three minutes or a little more each. But even within their short run times, the thoughts shared by the pair speak volumes. They discuss the festival itself and its history and how much it meant to have been invited to perform. They also discuss their relationship with the festival’s late founder Claude Nobs. They spoke very fondly of nobs and how those positive vibes led to the band’s musical tribute to the man. Just as eye and ear opening is the pair’s discussion on how the festival really brought together so many people of different musical backgrounds. It shows a love for music and respect for all different kinds of people. And that sentiment, as short as it may be, makes one look back through the concert once again, gaining a whole new appreciation not just for this recording, but for the members of ZZ Top as people. All things considered, this latest live recording from Eagle Rock Entertainment proves to be one more in this critic’s list of the year’s best new live recordings. It will be the favorite of any other music lover, too when they purchase the Blu-ray or DVD for themselves.

More information on this and other releases from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online at http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt and http://www.eagle-rock.com. And for the latest on ZZ Top’s updated tour schedule and more, fans can follow the band online at http://www.facebook.com/ZZTop and http://www.zztop.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Eagle Rock Entertainment Releases Details Of Upcoming ZZ Top Live Release

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Montreux Sounds

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Montreux Sounds

The partnership between Eagle Rock Entertainment and Montreux Sounds has led to the release of a number of archived shows from the festival’s decades-long history in recent years. Performances from the likes of Phil Collins, Carlos Santana, Etta James, and so many others have been released thanks to the companies’ partnership. Now another of music’s major names will see one of its Montreux Festival performances released this summer thanks to that partnership. The name in question is none other than classic rock trio ZZ Top.

ZZ Top: Live at Montreux 2013 will be released July 22, 2014 on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital formats. The new archived concert will be released alongside the brand new CD release of ZZ Top: The Very Baddest Of. That new CD release is a two-disc set containing forty of the band’s biggest hits. It will be released via Rhino Records. ZZ Top: Live at Montreux 2013 will see the band performing many of those hits live at the famed festival. Among the songs audiences can expect to hear are: ‘La Grange,’ ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’,’ ‘Pincushion,’ ‘Sharp Dressed Man,’ ‘Waitin’ For The Bus,’ ‘Legs,’ ‘Tube Snake Boogie,’ and ‘Tush’ just to name a handful of songs. Audiences can also expect to see the band’s performance of ‘Tres Hombres,’ ‘Fandango,’ ‘Eliminator,’ and ‘La Futura.’ Needless to say that this new archived performance is a definite career-spanning set. There is even a jazz-blues tribute to the late Claude Nobs, who founded the Montreux Jazz Festival decades ago. The performance features appearances by Mike Flanigin on Hammond organ and Van Wilks on guitar.

The concert’s DVD presentation will retail for SRP of $14.98. The Blu-ray will retail for $19.98. More information on this and other releases from Eagle Rock Entertainment and Montreux Sounds is available online at http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt and http://www.eagle-rock.com. More information on ZZ Top and all of its upcoming releases and tour news is available online at http://www.zztop.com and http://www.facebook.com/zztop. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

May & Ellis’ Candlelight Concerts Recording Another Huge Hit For Eagle Rock

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision/Eagle Records

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision/Eagle Records

Eagle Rock Entertainment and its visual division, Eagle Vision, have been at the front of the line in live recordings in recent years thanks to releasing so many big, bombastic concerts on DVD and Blu-ray. So it goes without saying that Brian May & Kerry Ellis: The Candlelight Concerts is quite the departure for Eagle Rock and Eagle Vision. That’s not a bad thing, either. While it features Queen guitarist Brian May alongside one of the most powerful voices in Broadway’s modern history, the references to Queen are kept to a minimum throughout the course of the concert. That is the most important factor in what makes this latest release from Eagle Rock and Eagle Vision so worth the time. Another reason that audiences will appreciate this new recording is its audio and video mix. The high quality video and audio mix (both on the Blu-ray and CD) maintain Eagle Rock and Eagle Vision’s long-held standard of releasing only the best quality concerts to audiences. And making everything complete for this latest recording is its packaging. Brian May & Kerry Ellis: The Candlelight Concerts has been made available to consumers in a double-disc Blu-ray/CD combo pack in a single package. This allows audiences to take in the performance in whole without having to choose which one they would want more. It may be a slightly higher price. But in the long-term, it’s more cost effective for those wanting the full concert experience. All of the factors noted here make Brian May & Kerry Ellis: The Candlelight Concerts yet another huge success from the leader in live recordings.

Brian May & Kerry Ellis: The Candlelight Concerts is not a Queen concert. That’s not to say that there are no Queen songs featured throughout the course of the set’s CD and Blu-ray. As a matter of fact, some of Queen’s biggest hits including ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘Somebody To Love’, ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ and ‘No-One But You (Only The Good Die Young)’ are part of the performance. But by and large, this performance features covers of other songs, and even a couple original tunes. One of the most powerful of the performance’s moments comes in Ellis’ cover of ‘The Way We Were.’ The song, made popular by singer/actress Barbara Streisand in the 1973 movie by the same name. As Ellis notes before performing her take on the song, it’s more commonly performed with a full orchestral backing, even in the movie’s soundtrack. It gains a whole new identity in this completely stripped down setting. On the other end of the spectrum, May and Ellis presented a stripped down song in ‘The Kissing Me Song’ that absolutely cries out for a full band setting. Any drummers and percussionists out there will agree with this drummer that there is a stunning polyrhythmic drum track just waiting to come out in this piece. One can even hear a tambourine part echoing in the background. Making the song even more interesting is that it is an original piece, instead of a cover. It would be interesting to see if the pair ever re-works the tune for a full band setting. Moving on, there is at least one more high point in this performance in terms of the show’s set list that audiences will appreciate. That last high point is the duo’s take on ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love.’ Despite being in a stripped down setting, it is just as enjoyable in this setting as on record. And experiencing the audience’s enthusiastic reaction to the song makes it all the more enjoyable for viewers watching it in their homes. It has just as much energy here as in any other setting. As enjoyable as this moment is, it isn’t the last of the show’s many high points. There are plenty more moments from which audiences will get to choose when they purchase or order the combo pack for themselves.

The set list chosen for this penultimate performance of May and Ellis’ “By Candlelight Tour” is central to the enjoyment of this recording. Those hoping for a stripped down Queen set will be sadly disappointed since it isn’t a Queen set. For those more open-minded, they will deeply appreciate the variety of songs included in the show. The songs would be nothing without the expert work of those behind the cameras and soundboard. Eagle Rock Entertainment and Eagle Vision have maintained a high standard for their live recordings for some time. And this recording is no exception to that rule. The picture and sound are both crystal clear. And the angles used in the camera work expertly capture the emotion of both performers in the rather intimate setting. It adds so much depth to the overall presentation, making it even more worth checking out.

The set list and overall production values of Brian May & Kerry Ellis: The Candlelight Concerts are both pivotal elements to the overall presentation of this recording. Both go hand in hand in making the whole thing worth the time and money. There is still at least one more element worth noting about this set. That aspect is the recording’s packaging itself. Eagle Rock, Eagle Vision, and Eagle Records have come together to make the set available to the masses not as separate release, but as one entire package. On the surface, this might drive up the price of the set a bit. But in the long run, it actually saves money and the time trying to decide which is more important. Eagle Rock is actually serving its customers by combining the CD and Blu-ray into a full double-disc set. What’s more, each of the two discs gets its own spot on either side of the Blu-ray’s case. That saves space and in turn, helps to keep the cost of the set down. And that combined with the show’s outstanding production values, and equally outstanding set list makes it one more huge success from the company that more than deserves the title of being the leader in live recordings.

Brian May & Kerry Ellis: The Candlelight Concerts is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Candelight-Concerts-Live-Montreux-Blu-ray/dp/B00I60VY56/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1396512611&sr=1-1&keywords=brian+may+kerry+ellis. More information on this and other releases from Eagle Rock Entertainment, Eagle Vision, and Eagle Records is available online at http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt and http://www.eagle-rock.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Thorogood & Company Put On A Real Rock Party In Their First Ever Montreux Show

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Eagle Rock Entertainment and Montreux Sounds formed a new landmark business partnership a year or so ago.  The partnership in question allowed Eagle Rock distribution rights for a number of new and archived shows that were recorded at what is one of music’s most revered festivals.  And the recordings in question have been nothing short of impressive.  From the likes of Miles Davis, Stan Getz, and Etta James to newer acts such as The Raconteurs, the Montreux Jazz Festival has seen some of the industry’s top names take its storied stages.  Now, one more piece of the legendary festival’s history has been released to the masses in the form of George Thorogood & The Destroyers Live at Montreux 2013.  The concert, which was recorded this past July, marked the first time that Thorogood and his band mates—Jeff Simon (drums), Bill Blough (bass), Jim Suhler (guitar/vocals), and Buddy Leach (saxophone)–had ever performed at the venue.  And Thorogood himself makes note of his excitement at getting to finally perform at Montreux after more than two decades.  That excitement pored over throughout the band’s entire performance, too.  It’s one of the key factors of this recording that makes it so fun to take in.  The band’s set list is another reason that fans will enjoy this recording.  Thorogood and his band mates hit on every one of their major hit songs.  There is even a tribute to Johnny Cash thrown in for good measure.  If that isn’t enough for fans, the combination of the recording’s bonus interview and companion booklet will push the recording over the top.  They, along with the set list and the band’s performance, make this recording one more huge success from Eagle Rock Entertainment and Montreux Sounds.

George Thorogood has been making music and performing for over four decades.  So it comes as quite the surprise that 2013 marked the first time that he and his band mates played the famed Montreux Jazz Festival.  The festival, which started out mainly as a venue for the top names in jazz and blues, has grown each year to incorporate bands and artists from across the musical spectrum.  Thorogood and his band mates obviously held no ill will toward festival organizers when they took the stage at the festival.  Thorogood makes no bones concerning his excitement at finally being invited to perform at Montreux.  His positive energy isn’t confined to just that one moment, either.  From the high energy opener that is ‘Rock Party’ to hits like ‘I Drink Alone’, ‘Bad to the Bone’, and ‘Madison Blues’, the band exudes so much energy and excitement.  The audience in attendance feeds off of every bit of that excitement, too.  The mutual sharing of excitement and energy can be felt even by viewers watching this recording from the comfort of their own living rooms or bedrooms.  Home viewers may even find themselves feeding off of that excitement, dancing around and playing air guitar, etc.  That shows just how much fun Thorogood and company make their performance for all of their audiences.  Home viewers will discover this for themselves when they order or purchase the recording for themselves on DVD and Blu-ray.

The positive energy and excitement exuded by Thorogood and company is key to the overall enjoyment of this recording.  Whether one is seeing the concert for the first time or reliving the concert again, everybody can agree that the band’s stage performance alone is enough reason to take in this concert.  Just as important to the overall enjoyment of this concert recording is the set list chosen for the performance.  Fans won’t be disappointed at the set list chosen for the concert.  The veteran rockers included all of their fan favorites over the course of the near ninety-minute set.  From the likes of ‘I Drink Alone’ to the band’s now famous cover of John Lee Hooker’s ‘One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer’ to the Johnny Cash tribute in ‘Cocaine Blues’, the band leaves little if anything on the table.  Audiences will especially appreciate that in the tribute to the late country singer, Thorogood actually seems to channel him.  He actually sounds like Cash, vocally speaking, at points in the song.  The same can be said of his guitar work, too.  It is just one of so many high points offered throughout the course of the concert.  And it’s just one more part of what makes the recording as a whole so enjoyable for audiences of all ages.  It’s not the last, either.  The bonus interview and companion booklet included in with the DVD and Blu-ray put the finishing touch on this recording.

The songs chosen for this concert and the band’s performance collectively make up the most important and impressive part of this latest recording from Eagle Rock Entertainment and Montreux Sounds.  There is still one part of the overall presentation of this recording that puts it over the top.  That last part ifs the collective bonus interview and companion booklet.  The show’s bonus sit-down with Thorogood shows that the persona presented on stage was as real as it comes.  Audiences get even more insight into his excitement over playing Montreux at long last.  And through the show’s companion booklet, audiences get a brief history of Thorogood’s career leading up to his performance at Montreux.  Audiences will be interested to learn that along with George Thorogood and The Destroyers, ZZ Top was at Montreux this year, as were Prince, Sting, Ben Harper, Deep Purple, Leonard Cohen, and so many others.  It’s just a tiny piece of the whole history that audiences will enjoy learning in reading through the included literature.  And together with everything already mentioned, that history and the bonus interview make this presentation complete.  It all collectively makes this latest release one more huge success from Eagle Rock Entertainment and Montreux Sounds.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Live-At-Montreux-2013-Blu-ray/dp/B00FFLBXJQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1387537259&sr=1-1&keywords=george+thorogood+%26+the+destroyers+live+at+montreux+2013.  More information on this and other concerts in Eagle Rock’s ongoing Montreux series of concerts is available online at http://www.eaglerockent.com and http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Stan Getz Live Is A Tribute To The Legacies Of Both Getz And Nobs

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Montreux Sounds

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Montreux Sounds

Claude Nobs started what is today one of the most respected festivals in the music world over forty five years ago when he founded the Montreux Jazz Festival.  Little did he know at the time that it would grow to be what it has become today.  It has grown from hosting the world’s best jazz artists and groups to being the venue that every band and artist across the spectrum dreams of playing.  It has indeed hosted some of the best of the best and some of the best to be, as is evidenced through the deal made between Montreux Sounds and Eagle Rock Entertainment.  The deal between the two companies has garnered some of the best live recordings to date.  It has also helped Eagle Rock maintain its place at the front of the class in terms of live recordings.  And it has continued to do so with the release of a recording that is a classic Montreux performance in every form of the word.  The recording in question is of the late great sax player Stan Getz.  The recording in question is taken from Getz’s very first ever performance at Montreux in 1972.  He is joined by two other very highly respected jazz artists in keyboardists Chick Corea and drummer Tony Williams.  Along with bassist Stanley Clarke, the quartet’s performance stands as a true tribute the legacy of not only the Montreux Jazz Festival, but to its now dearly departed founder, Claude Nobs.  Mr. Nobs would have been proud to see this recording finally see the light of day.  And so will true jazz lovers, too.

True lovers of jazz will appreciate this recording for a variety of reasons.  One of those reasons is the backstory provided by Corea himself in the DVD’s bonus booklet.  Corea states in the bonus liner notes that the quartet seen in this recording was also the group that ended up going out on tour with Getz prior to the show in 1971.  According to Corea, Getz was planning to go out on the road in ’71, but had no band with which to tour.  After making some contacts, the group presented here is the group that toured together.  It’s obvious that during that tour, a bond had formed between the band members.  Getz pulls back time and again throughout the roughly hour long set, allowing his band mates to get their time in the spotlight and then some.  It was his quiet way of telling the audiences that the show wasn’t about him.  It was about everyone on stage.  Again, this is echoed through the sentiments shared in the DVDs bonus booklet.  Corea shares so much insight on how he came to be friends with Getz and on how the group grew as friends and individuals.  So few people take the time to read liner notes, etc. on DVDs, Blu-rays, and CDs.  But this is one of those examples of why those booklets and liner notes aren’t always just wasted ink.  It helps to make this show more than just a recording.  Because of those liner notes, it becomes a fully immersive musical experience and equally important historical document of sorts.

The bonus booklet included with Stan Getz: Live at Montreux 1972 is but one part of what makes this live recording so enjoyable is the performance of the band.  As Corea noted in the bonus booklet, the band seen in this recording is the same band that toured with Getz the previous year.  What’s so amazing about the performance is that while the band had already played a handful of shows through 1971, just watching the band’s members perform together here one would think that they were playing together for the first time.  There was so much energy among the entire group in every song.  Williams’ drumming was completely off the charts.  It goes without saying that his playing is something to which EVERY drummer today should aspire.  The precision yet seeming controlled chaos of what he did is awe inspiring, even today.  And Getz’s own performance on the likes of ‘La Fiesta’ is just as incredible.  He proved that he was just as talented playing rather up-tempo pieces as he was playing slower pieces, like ‘Lush Life’ and the show’s opener, ‘Captain Marvel.’  The way that his fingers moved on ‘La Fiesta’, one would expect them to get tangled among themselves.  And his breath control, handling such long strains is incredible.  That set against his chops on the set’s slower songs proves why he is still so revered among jazz artists and musicians overall even today.  Corea exhibits his own talent throughout the show.  Again, it is something audiences must see for themselves to fully appreciate.  And appreciate it they will when they pick up this performance both on DVD and CD.  That’s right.  It’s available not only on DVD, but CD, too.  This is another positive to the recording’s overall presentation.

Stan Getz: Live at Montreux 1972 is a stunning tribute both to the legacy of Stan Getz and his band mates, and to the festival’s late founder, Claude Nobs.  The DVD presentation alone is outstanding for a variety of reasons.  Two of those reasons are already listed off here.  It is put over the top thanks to the inclusion of a solely CD recording as well.  This is hardly the first time that Eagle Rock has included a CD recording as an option for its live recordings.  As a matter of fact, Eagle Rock has done so with pretty much every live recording that it has released to date.  So why is this performance so important on both DVD and CD?  It is important because it completes the documentation of this classic performance and solidifies even more both the talents of the musicians presented here and the legacy of the Montreux Jazz Festival.  The performance is available now on both DVD and CD.  More information on this and other Montreux Jazz Festival recordings is available online at http://www.eaglerockent.com and http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Eagle Rock Keeps Soaring With Santana’s Latest Live Release

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision/Montreux Sounds

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision/Montreux Sounds

Thank goodness for Carlos Santana.  And Thank goodness for Eagle Rock Entertainment.  This has been stated before already with the 2012 release of Carlos Santana: Greatest Hits Live at Montreux 2011.  Now Eagle Rock has finished what it started with the release of Santana’s performance that same year with fellow guitar legend John McLaughlin (The Mahavishnu Orchestra).  It has already been noted of seeing Carlos Santana and company live before that to see these musicians perform live is to not just see a concert.  Seeing Carlos Santana and his band mates live is to truly take part in a musical experience.  That applies in this brand new release just as much as in Eagle Rock’s previous live Santana Blu-ray.  The musical experience is just one portion of what makes Santana & McLaughlin: Live at Montreux 2011 such a joy for music aficionados.  Tied directly into the experience is the show’s set list.  Just as with Santana’s previous live release via Eagle Rock, this show’s set list feels more like one giant jam session than a specifically structured set list.  This is far better than anyone could realize.  And lastly, audiences with HDTVs will appreciate the clarity of the recording’s sound and picture.  Those with surround sound home theater systems will especially appreciate that clarity.  Together with the set list and the general performance, it is one more factor that reminds audiences why Eagle Rock Entertainment is the leader of the pack in live recordings.

Taking in a performance of Carlos Santana and his band mates is more than simply taking in a performance from the highly talented musicians.  Taking in a performance of these individuals is taking in a full musical experience.  This is just as true in Santana & McLaughlin: Invitation to Illumination as it was on Carlos Santana: Greatest Hits Live at Montreux 2011.  It is incredible to see Santana and his band mates sharing the stage throughout the two-hour plus performance.  Unlike so many other bands out there today, Santana steps back on multiple occasions, allowing his band mates to get their fair share of time in the limelight.  Simply put, he not only talks the talk, but walks the walk, too.  Such humility, willingness to share the spotlight, and talent shows why Santana is still one of the greatest guitarists in modern music history.  Audiences that have not yet gotten to see Eagle Rock’s previous performance from Santana and company will be in awe at the talent of both drummers Dennis Chambers and Santana’s own wife, Cyndi Blackman Santana.  Blackman Santana’s skill with the sticks is unparalleled.  Watching her perform whether with the rest of the band or by herself on her drum solo is like watching controlled chaos.  By contrast, Chambers’ own performance behind his kit is the picture of talent and composure.  Chambers’ body language is one of someone that is entirely relaxed.  Yet his playing would seem otherwise.  It’s an amazing juxtaposition.  The band overall presents such talent throughout its performance. 

The band’s performance throughout the two-hour plus concert is the central point of the recording.  Also to be taken into consideration in the overall presentation is the show’s set list.  The set list for this concert was comprised largely of songs from the classic 1973 album, Love Devotion Surrender.  However, fans will also take note early on of the medley of songs including covers of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’, Bob Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ and saxophonist John Coletrane’s ‘Peace on Earth’.  It even contains a cover of Albert Ayler’s ‘Our Prayer.’  The cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was the highest of highlights throughout the medley of tunes.  From the guitar work of both Santana and McLaughlin to David K. Matthews’ keyboards to every part in between, it is a cover that would make both Jimmy Page and Robert Plant proud if they see this performance.  The same can be said of the late John Bonham’s son, Jason, too.  While it’s a cover, one can’t help but think to one’s own self, which version is really better?  Zeppelin’s version or this updated take on the classic song?  That’s a tough call.  But what can be said is that it is just as good as the original, if not better.  It is an amazing point in the overall performance.  Audiences will of course each find their own moment that they will call their favorite.  This is just one of so many from which audiences will be able to choose.  And it’s just one of so many that make Invitation to Illumination such a joy for audiences of all ages.

The set list and the general performance work together with this new release to make it one of the year’s best live recordings.  There is one more factor that audiences should consider in examining what makes it one more expert release from Eagle Rock Entertainment.  That factor is the presentation’s audio and video mix.  The audio and video mix of this presentation is right on par with each live recording already released so far by Eagle Rock Entertainment this year.  Those with home theater surround sound systems and the ability to set the audio on their HDTVs to a music setting will especially appreciate this.  Those audiences will be entirely enveloped by the concert and see just why taking in a performance by Carlos Santana and his band mates is in fact not just taking in a performance, but being part of a true musical experience.  Santana & McLaughlin: Invitation to Illumination Live at Montreux 2011 is available now in stores and online.  Fans can keep up with the latest news and more from Carlos Santana online at http://www.santana.com and http://www.facebook.com/carlossantana

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Neil Cowley Live At Montruex One Of 2013’s Best Live CD Recordings, Too

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Eagle Rock Entertainment recently released what is easily one of the year’s best live recordings in the form of Neil Cowley Trio Live at Montreux 2012 on Blu-ray.  The award winning trio’s performance was released on a variety of formats including CD.  Those who have not picked up this performance on DVD or Blu-ray will be especially impressed by the CD portion as it follows the same rundown as the visual recordings of the show.  There are few words to fully describe the trio’s performance other than perhaps “stunning” and “beautiful.”  The musical landscapes painted by the trio in its performances of songs from its most recent full length studio release, ‘Face of Mount Molehill’ (2012) show everything that makes a live performance so special for audiences. 

Even in audio format, audiences get a recording in Neil Cowley Trio Live at Montreux 2012 that will take them to another world.  Listeners need just turn on this record and close their eyes, and they will be able to see every note jump from the page and into their minds.  It’s not often that a band, artist, or group can have such an incredible effect either on a studio or live record.  But Neil Cowley Trio has managed to do just that with this live recording.  That is especially the case for anyone that is new to the sounds of this group of musicians.  The post song banter by Cowley seems to have been taken out of this half of the presentation.  But that’s a minor loss, as the music more than makes up for the other’s absence. 

Since this portion of the group’s Montreux performance is audio only, one can only go so far as to critique its sound quality. It goes without saying that the audio recording presented on this disc is crystal clear.  Every note and every beat is audible.  And given the proper attention, every note and every beat can have its very own meaning, making the record that much more enjoyable.   

Neil Cowley  and his band mates—Rex Horan (bass) and Evan Jenkins (drums)—along with the band’s touring musicians have proven with this recording with a single shadow of a doubt that this band has picked up right where the famed jazz/fusion group Yellowjackets left off with its 2011 album, Timeline.  While the members of Yellowjackets are out on the road in support of Timeline, Neil Cowley and company are keeping appetites of that band whetted with this new release.  It would be quite interesting, as a matter of fact, to see the two acts perform together if they haven’t done so.  Such a live bill would be quite the treat for fans of modern jazz and of either group.  Until such time, the band is set to perform at a pair of European jazz festivals next weekend.  A performance at the annual Love Supreme Festival in Lewes, United Kingdom is also currently on the group’s tour itinerary. Fans of the Neil Cowley Trio can get all the latest tour dates and more when they “Like” the group’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/neilcowleytrio or check in at the band’s official website, http://www.neilcowleytrio.com.

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