Santana-McLaughlin Montreux Re-Issue Is Another Shining Beacon From Eagle Rock

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Forty-eight years ago a man named Claude Knobs founded the Montreux Jazz Festival. In the decades since its founding, the once jazz-only festival has grown to become one of the world’s most renowned festivals featuring acts from every one of the music industry’s genres. Sadly, Knobs passed away two years ago. But even in his absence, the festival has continued on and remained one of the world’s elite music festivals. And thanks to the efforts of the people at Eagle Rock Entertainment that reputation has been held strong due to the label’s partnership with Montreux Sounds. The companies’ partnership has resulted in a number of performances from the festival’s history being released in recent years. That list includes performances from the likes of: Stan Getz, Phil Collins, Etta James, ZZ Top, and The Raconteurs among so many others. Last week, that list grew just a little more when the companies revisited Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin’s 2011 Invitation to Illumination performance and re-issued the concert in a double-disc CD presentation. Originally released on DVD and Blu-ray in 2013, this latest release is just as enjoyable for those that might not already own the concert’s original DVD and/or BD presentation. Of course it is just as enjoyable for anyone that already owns said presentations, too. The main reason that it is so enjoyable is its set list. Just as with Eagle Rock’s 2012 Santana live release, Greatest Hits Live at Montreux 2011, this show’s set list feels more like one giant jam session than a specifically structured set list. By direct connection, the stage presence of the musicians on stage is just as noteworthy in the recording’s enjoyment and success. Last of note in this recording is the concert’s audio mix. Those with surround sound home theater systems will especially appreciate that clarity of the recording’s audio mix. Together with the set list and the band’s stage presence, that expert audio mix is one more factor that reminds audiences why Eagle Rock Entertainment is the leader of the pack in live recordings. Collectively, all three elements show why this recording is one of the best of this year’s crop of re-issues.

Eagle Rock Entertainment’s new double-disc presentation of Carlos Santana & John Mclaughlin’s performance at the 2011 Montreux Jazz Festival is not the first time that the recording has been released. Despite that, this audio-only presentation is just as enjoyable as the concert’s 2013 DVD and Blu-ray presentation of the concert. This applies both for those that already own the concert’s DVD and/or Blu-ray presentation and for those that have neither. The main reason that it is so enjoyable for all involved is its set list. The nearly two and a half hour performance (two hours and fourteen minutes to be exact) is composed of sixteen tracks that touch on quite a few different genres. There is a tribute to Led Zeppelin early on as Santana and company cover the legendary rock band’s hit single ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ There are also tributes to Miles Davis and John Coletrane later in the performance in the form of ‘Black Satin’ and ‘A Love Supreme’ respectively. There is also another tribute to Coletrane earlier in the show in the form of ‘Naima,’ which is another of the legendary sax player’s greatest hits. As if these numbers aren’t enough, there are also of plenty of other original pieces performed by Santana and his fellow musicians pulled from Santana and McLaughlin’s 1973 album Love Devotion Surrender. The combination of the artists’ covers and original compositions results in a set list that is rich and completely engaging. Being so rich and engaging, audiences won’t even realize that so much time has passed by the time they reach the concert’s finale performance. That in itself is the mark of a truly talented group of musicians. Speaking of the musicians’ collective talents, their talents are another reason that audiences will enjoy this latest release of Invitation to Illumination.

The extensive set list compiled for Invitation to Illumination is in itself plenty of reason for fans of Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin to pick up this newly re-issued concert recording. It runs nearly two and a half hours and spans some sixteen songs. At no point in that time will audiences ever find themselves checking the time as the concert progresses. Rather, they will find themselves becoming lost in the concert in the best way possible. That says quite a bit within itself. Of course the concert’s chosen set list is only part of what makes it so enjoyable. The stage presence of Santana and his fellow musicians is another reason that audiences will enjoy the show. Taking in a performance by 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 hear Santana and his band mates sharing the stage throughout the two-hour plus performance. Unlike so many other acts 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 will be in awe at the talent of both Dennis Chambers and Santana’s own wife, Cyndi Blackman Santana as they work behind their kits. 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. It’s yet another way in which the band’s stage presence shows itself to be an important part of the recording’s whole. Together with the show’s extensive set list, both elements show once again why Invitation to Illumination is a brightly shining live recording from Eagle Rock Entertainment.

The set list assembled for Invitation to Illumination and the stage presence of the assembled musicians are both key reasons that the recording is so entertaining for audiences. They are just part of the whole of the recording’s enjoyment in its new double-disc CD presentation. The concert’s final audio mix rounds out the reasons that the concert shines so brightly. Those with surround sound home theater systems will especially appreciate that clarity of the recording’s audio mix. That is not to say that those without a home theater system will be left out in the cold per se. Rather it is just to say that the audio mix really lends itself to a home theater system even having been recorded at an indoor venue. There is something about the combined talents of the musicians on stage that just gives the performance that much power. This includes both the concert’s more raucous moments and even its more reserved moments. Audiences will agree with this sentiment when they pick up this recording for themselves. Together with the concert’s set list and the performers’ stage presence, it becomes the finishing touch on a recording that is one more brightly shining recording from Eagle Rock Entertainment even having been previously released.

While it is not the first time that Eagle Rock Entertainment has released the concert, the company’s new double-disc CD presentation of Invitation to Illumination still shines just as brightly as the concert’s previous DVD and Blu-ray presentation. This is the case both for those that already own one or both of the previously released presentations and for those that don’t already own either. The show’s set list coupled with the stage presence and talents of the performers makes for plenty of enjoyment in its new re-issue. The concert’s expert audio mix makes it even more of a joy for audiences. All three elements taken together make Invitation to Illumination a concert that is just as enjoyable the second time around as the first. Santana & McLaughlin: Invitation to Illumination Live at Montreux 2011 is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online now at:

Website: http://www.eagle-rock.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt

Twitter: http://twitter.com/EagleRockNews

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

New Live Coletrane Recording Coming This Spring From MVD Entertainment Group

Courtesy:  MVD Entertainment Group

Courtesy: MVD Entertainment Group

Jazz lovers celebrate! This spring, MVD Entertainment Group is going to release a new archived live recording from legendary saxophonist John Coletrame.

MVD Entertainment Group will release So Many Things: The European Tour 1960 on Tuesday, March 10th. The four-disc set is a “sequel” of sorts to Miles Davis and John Coletrane “All of You”: The Last Tour 1960. It follows the band’s performances from its Fall 1961 tour of Europe and features performances of some of Coletrane’s greatest hits including: ‘My Favorite Things,’ ‘Blue Train,’ and ‘Naima’ that Coletrane performed alongside band mates Eric Dolphy (alto sax, bass clarinet, flute), McCoy Tyner (piano), Reggie Workman (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums). There is also a bonus for fans as the quintet performed what is Coletrane’s only recording of Victor Young’s ‘Delilah.’ It also includes photographs, concert memorabilia, and news articles as well as a full-length essay in the set’s liner notes from award-winning British saxophonist and writer Simon Spillett. The complete track listing for the upcoming recording is noted below.
CD 1:
L’Olympia, Paris, November 18th 1961 (First House)
1. Blue Train (Coltrane)
2. I Want To Talk About You (Eckstine)
3. Impressions (Coltrane)
4. My Favourite Things (Rodgers, Hammerstein)

L’Olympia, Paris, November 18th 1961 (Second House)
5. I Want To Talk About You (Eckstine)
6. Blue Train (Coltrane)

CD 2:
L’Olympia, Paris, November 18th 1961 (Second House, cont.)
1. My Favourite Things (Rodgers, Hammerstein)

Falkconercentret, Copenhagen, Denmark, November 20th 1961
2. Announcement
3. Delilah (Young)
4. Everytime We Say Goodbye (Porter)
5. Impressions (Coltrane)
6. Naima (Coltrane)

CD 3:
Falkonercentret, Copenhagen, Denmark, November 20th 1961 (cont.)
1. My Favourite Things (false starts)
2. Announcement by John Coltrane
3. My Favourite Things (Rodgers, Hammerstein)

Kulttuuritalo, Helsinki, Finland, November 22nd 1961 (Second House)
4. Blue Train (Coltrane)
5. I Want To Talk About You (Eckstine)
6. Impressions (Coltrane)
7. My Favourite Things (Rodgers, Hammerstein)

CD 4:
Konserthuset, Stockholm, Sweden, November 23rd 1961 (First House)
1. Blue Train (Coltrane)
2. Naima (Coltrane)
3. Impressions (Coltrane)
4. My Favourite Things (Rodgers, Hammerstein)

Konserthuset, Stockholm, Sweden, November 23rd 1961 (Second House)
4. My Favourite Things (Rodgers, Hammerstein)

More information on this and other releases from MVD Entertainment Group is available online at:

Website: http://www.mvdb2b.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MVDEntertainmentGroup

Twitter: http://twitter.com/MVDentgroup

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Precious Child: Love Songs & Lullabies Is One Of This Year’s Most Surprisingly Enjoyable Children’s Albums

Courtesy:  MGP Records

Courtesy: MGP Records

MGP Records’ newly released children’s album Precious Child: Love Songs & Lullabies is one of the most surprising releases in its genre so far this year.  The album, which was crafted by composer-musician Darryl Tookes and Joe Beck is a beautiful tribute to the memory of Beck, who passed away in 2008.  Beck, like Tookes, was himself a composer and musician.  He wrote and recorded with some of the biggest names in the music industry throughout his life. From Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Miles Davis to the likes of James Brown, David Sanborn, and Paul Desmond, Beck’s resume was a shining list of who’s who in the music world.  So it goes without saying that when Beck passed in 2008 his friend Darryl Tookes had to wonder if this project would ever see the light of day.  Thank goodness, it did.  That’s because of the pure musical beauty contained from beginning to end in this compilation of songs.  The compilation opens with a catchy, jazzed-up take of the standard ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ that in this critic’s view, boasts quite the Stevie Wonder influence.  It’s a take that will take many by entirely pleasant surprise.  The flowing harmonies and keyboard line in ‘I Love You Too Much’ conjure thoughts of Boyz II Men.  The song is a touching tribute to every young boy out there.  The young ladies out there haven’t been forgotten, either.  As a matter of fact, ‘Daddy’s Girl’ is great for when a young lady is still a little girl or even for the first father-daughter dance at the wedding of any father’s daughter to her suitor.  It boasts its own old school r&b style that will move any dad with a heart to tears of happiness.  All three of the songs noted here are excellent examples of what makes Precious Child: Love Songs & Lullabies a beautiful surprise of a record.  Audiences will find for themselves in purchasing this album that every single one of the album’s ten tracks will leave a smile on any parent’s face; some songs more so than others.  In the end, audiences will agree that this record is a fitting tribute to the memory of Joe Beck and an equally fitting addition to any parent’s music library.

Tookes and Beck make quite the first impression with this compilation in their jazzed up take on the standard ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.’  That jazzed up feel is the most obvious aspect of the song that audiences will appreciate about it.  This classic poem/song is typically much slower and straight forward.  This more up-tempo take on the song is the polar opposite of that standard sound. One could almost argue that it boasts a celebratory vibe for lack of better wording.  And after hearing it, audiences will agree it is worlds better than that standard format.  Tookes channels Stevie Wonder as he sings poet Jane Taylor’s classic work.  Audiences that hear this song without knowing it is Tookes singing might actually mistake him for Wonder.  That in itself is quite the statement to Tookes’ vocal talents.  Not to be left out, Beck shines with his guitar work alongside Tookes’ vocals.  Their talents alongside the song’s vocal harmonies and the percussion add even more depth and emotion to the song.  That depth and joyful emotion generated through the song makes it clear why it was chosen as the album’s opener.  It makes just as clear that it was the right choice to open the album.

Beck and Tookes’ jazzed up take on ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ was the perfect choice to open this album, especially when taking into consideration the body of the album, closer included. It isn’t the only cover included on the album, either. There is also a medley of nursery rhymes that is just as enjoyable. And the duo’s gentle adaptation of ‘Rock a Bye Baby’ is just as impressive. The pair’s re-imaginings of classic songs aside, there are just as many equally moving originals throughout the album, too. One of those truly great pieces is an ode to sons everywhere in the song ‘I Love You Too Much.’ The gentle strains of the piano set against Tookes’ equally gentle vocals makes a person want to listen. The picture he paints of a father and son’s relationship is something worthy of a music video. This critic already has a vision of a music video in mind just listening to the video as the father and son talk to one another in the song’s verses. And as with the album’s opener, harmonies play a big role in this piece, too; especially in the song’s final moments. The best way to explain the combination of it all is that it is something that truly must be heard to be fully understood and appreciated. And in hearing it, every parent out there will appreciate the pure talent and musicianship exhibited throughout the composition. It is one more work that makes this compilation in whole an absolute for any parent out there.

The cover of the classic children’s poem/song ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ and the tribute to every son out there that is ‘I Love You Too Much’ are two absolute gems that shine so brightly one Precious Child: Love Songs & Lullabies. Every parent that picks up this album will be glad to know that in crafting the album before Beck’s passing, he and Tookes did not forget all of the young princesses out there. Beck and Tookes pay tribute to all of the daughters out there early on in the simply titled ‘Daddy’s Girl.’ All of the parents and daughters alike will be happy to see that this original song is also the first original work included in the compilation. It is the second song overall, yes. But it is the first of the record’s original tunes. So in a sense, one could say that the young ladies out there are getting a double tribute, getting their own song before the boys. Of course, that was meant in the most playful sense possible so as to not offend anyone. The lightly Latin-jazz tinged song is a piece that works whether a young lady is a child or enjoying her first father-daughter dance at her wedding. Tookes sings happily of a daughter, “This is a love/A love like no other love/This is a love/Unlike another/A love like no other I’ll ever know/And so she goes/And as I watch her grow/Daddy’s girl/My daughter/And I love her so/Daddy’s girl/My daughter/And I love her so.” Once again, the harmonies that are so prevalent throughout this record do so much in this piece. The addition of what sounds like bongos in the background alongside a light triangle line adds even more emotion and depth to the whole thing. As with ‘I Love You Too Much’ that depth and emotion makes it so easy to see this song being accompanied by a music video, too. Yes, that is a not so subtle hint to whoever makes those choices. Music video or not, it is one more absolutely beautiful and moving piece that exemplifies what makes Precious Child: Love Songs & Lullabies one of the most wonderfully surprising children’s albums to be released this year. That is not to discount the album’s other songs, either. The lullaby that is ‘Daddy’s Here’ and the album’s African-influenced title track will impress audiences just as much. Whether it be for those songs or any of the others not noted here, one will come away from this album knowing that in listening to it, they have just experienced something very special. They will know they have just experienced not just a group of songs, but a group of truly thought out and heartfelt songs that dare this critic say is timeless in its own right.

Precious Child: Love Songs & Lullabies is one of the most surprisingly enjoyable children’s albums to be released this year. From start to finish, every song on this album plays its own part in making this album timeless in its own right. Collectively, they make the album potentially one of the year’s definite best in its category this year. It is available now in stores and online. 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 https://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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Yellowjackets Take The Top Spot As The Year’s Best New Album Overall

Courtesy:  Mack Avenue Records

Courtesy: Mack Avenue Records

A Rise in the Road, the latest release from the pioneer jazz-fusion group Yellowjackets has been largely met with mixed reviews.  This is an album that fans either have loved or hated.  There seems to be little to no grey area at all with this album.  But in this critic’s own personal opinion, the band has never sounded better.  This latest record takes audiences back to the days of Blue Hats and other similar previous Yellowjackets releases.  Gone are the electric additions used in so many of the band’s other albums.  This is a fully acoustic record that is perfection from start to finish.

The band writes in the liner notes of its new album, “It’s hard to believe that Yellowjackets is now thirty-two years old.  No thirty-two year journey is one long stretch of level highway.  Along the way, one invariably encounters a rise in the road…We now find ourselves moving purposefully with renewed energy up that rise in the road.”  That could not have been better stated.  Right from the album’s opener, ‘When The Lady Dances’, one gets images of a high class jazz club, and people dancing happily, while others enjoy a drink at the bar.  One can almost see a camera panning and zooming slowly, focusing on one woman in particular.  She is dressed quite well, dancing quite happily with her male partner.  Being the album’s opener, it is a perfect first impression from the band, whose most recent album, Timeline, was released two years ago.  Founding member Bob Mintzer has never sounded better as he presents the main musical storyline on his sax.  And drummer Will Kennedy, who returns after being absent from the band for many years, keeps a solid backbeat offering a certain extra “seasoning” where needed.   Much the same can be said of longtime keyboardist Russell Ferrante.

The band members offer listeners plenty of energy in the first half of its new album.  So it’s just fitting that when it reaches its mid-point, the band slows things down quite a bit.  ‘Longing’ is another of those pieces that is so fittingly titled.  Again, Ferrante shines here.  This time, he partners with new bassist Felix Pastorius to paint a fully encompassing and touching musical picture.  Listeners get in ‘Longing’ perhaps a Central Park scene in early Fall.  Someone is standing on a small bridge over a stream, leaves falling around them, a cool breeze blowing.  This person could be a man or woman.  And the person in question is contemplating perhaps a missed chance at love or another social situation.  Ferrante’s gentle strains on the keyboards present that deep emotion and the setting alongside Pastorius’ bass lines.  Kennedy’s drumming and cymbal work serve to finalize that picture.  It all comes together to make ‘Longing’ one of the highest of highs on this record.   For those wondering why Pastorius’ name sound familiar, it should.  He is the son of the late great Weather Report bassist Jaco Pastorius.  As the band writes in its liner notes, its members had been friends with Jaco for many years before his passing.  So it was just fitting that he filled the shoes of longtime bassist Jimmy Haslip.

The musical pictures painted through A Rise in the Road run the gamut.  Regardless of the scene and emotion, those pictures are so rich and vivid.  And just as the band can paint some rich musical pictures and textures, it can also pain quite the thought provoking picture, too.  A prime example of the band’s ability to do so comes in ‘An Amber Shade of Blue.’  One could argue that the bizarre musical tapestry painted in this near seven-minute song harkens back to the golden era of bop.  Ferrante’s piano licks, Kennedy’s polyrhythmic patterns, and the trumpet playing of guest musician Ambrose Akinmusire feels entirely improvisational here, versus the more structured vibe of the album’s other songs.  A comparison to music from Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool could be made with this song.  It is one more example of what makes A Rise in the Road such an outstanding album from this group of highly talented veteran musicians.  It’s an example of why any fan of this veteran jazz act should give this record at least one listen.  Many might find after one listen that it’s worth well more than just one listen.  It’s worth every listen every time.

European fans of the band will get to see the band live this month as it makes its way across the continent.  It will perform in Copenhagen two nights on October 18th and 19th before heading to Germany on the 21st, 22nd, and 25th.  The band will wind down 2013 with a performance in North Carolina’s “Queen City” on December 14th.  The band will be at the Knight Theatre in Charlotte at 8pm that evening.  Information on other tour dates and more is available online at http://www.yellowjackets.com and http://www.facebook.com/yellowjacketsmusic.  And 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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Rockshow Another Welcome Live Release For Fans of McCartney AND Wings

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Eagle Rock Entertainment has for some time, been the place to go for anyone wanting to learn anything about the history of modern mainstream music.  The company has released live recordings from greats such as: Ray Charles, Miles Davis, The B-52s, Deep Purple and more over the years.  It has even ventured into the realm of newer music with live releases from artists including: The Raconteurs, Stone Temple Pilots, Alanis Morissette, and even Slipknot.  Now Eagle Rock has taken music lovers the world over back in time once again with yet another impressive live release from another of music’s greatest names in the form of one Sir Paul McCartney.

Eagle Rock has just released a new live recording from Sir Paul McCartney and his band mates in Wings, titled, Rockshow.  It would be so easy to state that this performance presents McCartney and company at the top of their game.  But the reality is that McCartney himself has always been at the top of his game.  This performance is just one more example of his and his band mates’ talent.  There are those that have complained about issues with audio in the transfer from this performance’s original VHS recording to the DVD and Blu-ray format.  One can’t help but wonder if this was a mostly isolated problem.  The Blu-ray screener viewed by this critic didn’t seem to have any audio issues whatsoever.  And for those that complained about the video quality, one must remember that this concert was originally recorded nearly four decades ago.  So yes, it is going to be grainy.  Fans of the music icon should be appreciative that the effort was even made to transfer the masters from Betamax to DVD and Blu-ray.  Considering all that could have gone wrong with the transfer, the grainy footage is just one more part of the whole that makes this another success for Eagle Rock Entertainment and for Sir Paul’s fans.

Having tackled the elephant in the room, the next logical step here would be to take a look at the band’s performance overall.  Whether one is a fan of McCartney’s time with The Beatles or more of his work away from the band that helped him launch his career, both sides will be equally impressed by the set list of this concert.  It all kicks off with the crowd pleaser, ‘Venus and Mars/Rock Show/Jet.’  Throughout the course of the roughly two hour-long recording, McCartney and company cover largely material from Wing’s catalogue.  Though there are some Beatles tunes peppered in for good measure including: ‘Lady Madonna’, ‘Blackbird’, and ‘The Long and Winding Road.’  They intentionally avoided the Beatles material as much as possible during this and other performances intentionally in order to separate the two bands.  As author/media personality Paul Gambaccini writes in the included liner notes, “In the early seventies McCartney did not perform Beatles songs in concert, wanting to establish Wings on its own.  Now, in 1976, the group is in full flight, and Paul can use some of the songs he wrote in the sixties to spice up the set.”  It really was a logical plan of action for someone that had built his name with such a big band.  And it helps to make this performance so much more enjoyable.

Staying on the matter of Gambaccini’s writing, this is another positive factor to the whole that is Rockshow.  His writing style is less journalism and more storytelling.  Set alongside the photos of the band, the pair takes viewers back in time.  He doesn’t try to write above himself.  And he doesn’t try to write above the heads of those that would buy this new release.  It’s easily accessible for general audiences.  Because of this, the actual concert experience is that much richer whether one was actually there or not when this performance was originally recorded.

Getting back to the actual concert experience, the band covers more than its own material and that of The Beatles.  Audiences will enjoy the inclusion of the Moody Blues classic, ‘Go Now.’  This song about lost love is ironically one of the whole performance’s highlights.  It’s a highlight not so much because of the music, but because of the sight of Paul and his then wife Linda performing side by side.  There is something so contradictory about this sight set against a song about lost love.  Audiences can see just how in love the couple was.  Sadly, she would pass many years later.  Knowing this, it makes this moment all the more special.  It makes the final two pages of the included booklet all the more touching as a closing gesture, too.  The booklet’s penultimate page features a concert poster for the original 1976 tour with Paul’s face there.  The final page is a picture of Linda exactly as she looked in this recording.  She was one of the ones for whom this re-mastered recording was dedicated.  While McCartney himself might not have had a hand in this new re-issue, he surely had to have seen this touching gesture.  Fans will see it too, and hopefully be just as moved by this and the sight of her performing with her then husband.  It’s a touching final moment of what is another enjoyable live release from Eagle Rock Entertainment.  The DVD and Blu-ray are both available now in stores and online.  They can be ordered online direct from the Eagle Rock Entertainment website at http://www.eagle-rock.com.

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Robert Randolph Announces New Record Deal, Tour

Courtesy:  Merlis For Hire

Courtesy: Merlis For Hire

Robert Randolph and the Family Band are back.  The band has signed a new deal with legendary jazz label, Blue Note Records.  This news comes along with the announcement of a new upcoming album due out this Summer.  The long anticipated new release will be the first from Randolph since 2010’s We Walk This Road.  Blue Note president Don Was recently commented on the signing, expressing his joy at having Randolph as the label’s newest signee.  “Robert Randolph is an American original…he has mastered what is, arguably, the most complex instrument in the world and developed a unique voice that is equal parts street-corner church and Bonnaroo,” he said.  “Robert’s new studio album finally captures the energy and excitement of his legendary live performances…we are honored that he has chosen Blue Note Records as his new home.” 

Randolph also shared his thoughts on having signed with Blue Note, expressing just as much excitement at this next step in his career.  “Blue note is a true music label with a 75-year history of working with great musicians like John Coletrane, Miles Davis and Al Green and the head of the label is a real musician and songwriter,” he explained.  Randolph will self produce the album, which will also feature members of his own family once again.  It will be engineered by Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin) and mixed by Jim Scott (Tedeschi Trucks Band).

Randolph will hit the road this Spring and Summer in support of his as yet untitled album.  His tour is currently slated to kick off April 6th at the River Run Rocks Series in Keystone, CO.  It’s set to run through August 16th and will include a pair of performances in North Carolina.  The first of those dates is Friday, May 10th at Wilmington, NC’s Greenfield Lake Amphitheater.  The second of his North Carolina dates is Saturday, May 11th in Beaufort, NC at the Beaufort Music Festival.  Fans can get a full list of tour dates online at http://www.facebook.com/rrtfb, http://www.robertrandolph.net, http://www.myspace.com/robertrandolph and http://twitter.com/rrtfb.

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.