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with Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck

Every few weeks Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck will check in with some reviews. Keith is a veteran syndicated music critic, his reviews appear in over 35 publications world-wide. To read more of Keith’s work visit muzikreviews.com  Now on to this this installment of MusikMan where Keith tells us about new cds from .
 

R.E.M. - In Time (1988-2003): The Best of R.E.M.
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Warner Bros. Records has released nine R.E.M. albums remastered with a DVD-A including bonus videos and unreleased tracks.  This best of compilation is one of the finest I have ever heard. Rarely do I continually play best of sets-this is an exception to the rule.

R.E.M. is truly unique in many ways. In the 80s, their sound got the label of alternative rock, now it sounds like great rock music, period. I have always been one of the advocates of the 80s being the lost decade of music; R.E.M. blows that theory right out of the water. It is apparent to me that their legacy is intact by today’s standards. Their catalog is remarkable and they clearly separated themselves from everyone else very early in their career. This band single handedly turned Athens, Georgia, into a hotbed of music rivaling cities like Austin and Los Angeles.

This music truly moved me; it made me feel complete again, it connected me with my fellow man and the cultures that the music spawns. Eighteen tracks is a lot of music and I must honestly say that each song stands alone as an individual accomplishment unrivaled on any scale. The sound is incredible, particularly with the orchestrated sections and some of the drum parts, the cymbals sound like they are right in your lap. The surround sound goes beyond that, giving each track the separation any music connoisseur would appreciate. Two videos of “Bad Day” provide a great opportunity to see how a song and a video can develop, one is a rehearsal and the other the original video. 

This is an ambitious offering from Warner Records. I plan to get all the remasters one way or another. This is the best way to start and it is a good primer for the rest of the catalog.

(keep an out for a special feature on the new reissues -ed)

Ray Charles - More Music From Ray
Rating
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I suppose that I am like many others, I have discovered the music of Ray Charles after his death. It is most unfortunate, but as they say-better late than never.
I knew he was an ever present force in music forever but never sought out his music for some reason. The one thing that I have learned during my short exposure to this man’s great music is one fact; he could take any song and make it his own. His versatility and style was one of a kind. There is no doubt that a musical genius like Charles will never come our way again.

More Music From Ray is the second volume of Charles classics from the movie soundtrack Ray. This CD has an accompanying DVD with three tracks pulled from the recent O-Genio DVD that covers a live performance in Brazil from 1963. The CD is jam packed with vintage Charles music, 17 tracks of jazz, blues and pop brilliance that remind you of this legendary performer’s incredible magnetism and professional polish. Each track is Ray at the peak of his powers with his voice and musicianship. 

Its real tough picking favorites on this CD, I truly loved every cut. When push comes to shove, I would say that “Lonely Avenue,” “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and “Makin’ Whoopee” are my favorites. The only other thing I can add…this is wonderful timeless music that really needs no introduction, its Ray Charles, and I rest my case.
 


Sanity - Live at 22
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The Netherlands is a hotbed of prog-rock and one of the latest entries that will enter our consciousness is Sanity. Its funny, I would think that they would have named themselves Insanity to be more inline with the formula of prog-rock being out there and different from any other music, although that sounds more like a punk name so Sanity works.

This DVD/CD set shows the band performing in a small nightclub called Twentietoe. You can tell by the reaction of the crowd after each song that there was definitely not a large throng of onlookers there. I think the band was more interested in having a decent stage to perform on to cut this video than having a typical concert hall audience to acknowledge each song. This is a low budget DVD; there is no doubt about it. The camera work is average and the lighting suspect. This is not what I am accustomed to at all; I guess you could call it a demo DVD at best. 

The band does the best they can with what they have to work with so I have to give them credit. Sanity is a good band, musically they are solid and tight and the lead singer Kees van Keulen sounds like Iggy Pop and Bowie all rolled into one person. His voice suits the driving punishing riffs of guitar man Jereon Hoegee. I could most certainly appreciate the timely rhythm section of Roger van Acquoy (bass) and Fred den Hartog (drums) as well. Nathan Cairo provides the necessary symphonic elements with flurries of keyboard virtuosity to take off the harder edge of Hoegee’s guitar. The sound of Cairo’s fluttering keyboards smoothes out the edges to make it all sound like true metal-prog.

I like what I heard but the theatrics and imagery were nonexistent in this performance. I think if this band ever puts out another DVD, they need to work on getting some of those important elements to go along with their great music. I know it is expensive to provide all of that entertainment on stage and they are not to the point yet were they could do this on a regular basis. I think it is something to think about if they are going to go through all the trouble to make a DVD again. I would suggest listening to the accompanying CD first to get an idea of what they sound like then checking out what they look like onstage after that. Get some of your own imagery conjured up in your head so you can let it unfold inside your mind while watching them gig. They have a story to tell and the music to move it all along, they just need someone to discover them and help them push it out there some more.
 


Mountain & Rick Derringer Live!

The Ridgefield Playhouse-January 15, 2005

Ridgefield, CT-I looked forward to seeing the two rock legends Rick Derringer and Mountain for a long time. The trip to get there was long as well, over 3 hours. The venue was located out in the middle of nowhere U.S.A. and when we got there, it looked like a school rather than a playhouse. When we walked in and went to the box office my name was on the guest list, there was only one problem; 20 people overbooked the list. I was then informed that I had to go sit backstage because the auditorium held only 500 people and every seat was occupied. I figured it was small but not that small! So I went towards the back where there was a security guard, he gave me a hard time, so I decided to leave and head back out, there was no way I was going to sit backstage after making a long trip like that. I wanted to watch the concert. To make a long story short, I spoke with the right person, later to find out it was the Executive Director of the establishment. She let us stand behind the last row next to an emergency exit. This was a great view; it was so small there, it was comparable to being five rows back in the orchestra pit at medium sized concert hall. At this point I was grateful that I was not one of the journalist stuck backstage just listening. I looked forward to a fun night.

I have been listening to these two artists since the 70s so I feel fortunate that both acts are still touring. Leslie West (guitar, lead vocals) and Corky Laing (drums) remains the core of Mountain with newcomer Richie Scarlet (bass). Scarlet looked totally out of place on stage with West and Laing, in fact, he looked very rock ‘n’ roll last night, as if  he could have been onstage with some of the 80s hair bands. Nevertheless, he is a fantastic bass player and showman. 

Rick Derringer kicked things off with his mates Charlie Torres (bass) and Tom Curiale (drums). I noticed quickly how youthful Derringer looked and his voice sounded better than ever. I found out later after running into Charlie Torres, that he has been taking voice lessons to rebuild his voice to old form. Speaking of Torres, he was so animated and energetic all night, always laughing and joking while laying down some killer bass to form a rock solid rhythm section with Curiale. Derringer made his way through every decade since he started recording. We went back to when his was 16 years old singing “Hang on Sloopy” with the McCoy’s to instrumental jazz rock fusion tunes. Derringer is a legendary musician and producer; he has worked with some of the best in the world. His versatility is an amazing thing to watch on stage. Little did I know that he released a smooth jazz album in 2002 titled Free Ride. I suspect I was not the only person there that was surprised to hear this. I knew Derringer was great but it did not hit home until last night just how important and influential this man has been in music since the 60s.

He played a nice set filled with power and energy and left very quietly without an encore. After the Derringer performance, I was thinking...how could Mountain possible top this. After a 15-minute break, Leslie and the boys came out. While I think Derringer is a much more versatile guitarist than West, what I was about to witness I would never forget.

West is incredible. He is a gifted guitar player that can play circles around most of his contemporaries. Leslie’s voice still has the wallop that is necessary to get over power packed rock classics like “For Yasgur’s Farm,” “Mississippi Queen” and “Never In My Life.” The highlight of the night was when the band stepped off stage to let us view a sneak preview of a documentary on the legendary band Cream, who is reforming for a series of concerts this year. Right after that, they came back out and proceeded to treat us to a Cream medley. It was the highlight of the evening as they did the Cream legend justice. Something unusual took place on this night as well, West took a stool by himself on stage and sat down and played an acoustic guitar for the Dylan classic “Blowin’ In The Wind.” It was an excellent representation of the song, done with emotion and a clear vision of what Dylan wrote about so long ago. At one point West had the entire crowd singing with him, it was very cool. I was so impressed with Corky Laing and his prowess on the drum kit; I honestly believe I was witnessing one of the greatest rock drummers of all time. He threw more drumsticks into the audience than I have ever seen; I think people in the first few rows must have walked out with a set a piece. All three men are great entertainers. Their charisma and connection to each other was obvious.

This was a very special night indeed. I highly recommend that you catch both of these acts live, they may be getting on in years but they still have what it takes to make great music and put on a show you will never forget.
 


Petra Haden and Bill Frisell - s/t
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This is a rare occasion indeed. I am stumped as to what category to put the self-titled Petra Haden and Bill Frisell album. I want to call it jazz and pop but would rather look at it as indefinable easy listening. I will just stick with the easy listening category to keep it simple. This does narrow it down somewhat, but do not be misled by my generalization of this fine recording. The jazz elements come out in Frisell’s guitar, which is due course as he is from that element. Petra Haden (her father is jazz luminary Charlie Haden) is a classical violinist that grew up with music around her constantly. 

There is a diverse background and culture immersed in this music that comes to a full boil. After the influences, background and training take a back seat, what you get is a simmering stew of music and personality that makes up all the beautiful tracks. This is the essence of two people playing off each other’s strengths. The 12 tracks are comprised of arranged standards and new songs from artists and composers such as Elliot Smith, Foo Fighters, Coldplay, George Gershwin, Tom Waits, Stevie Wonder, and the incomparable composer Henry Mancini. 

Haden has an endearing and sweet voice and Frisell’s guitar is just as elegant and persuasive. I have heard many of these songs done by several different artists over the years and I can honestly say that I have not heard them in this light before. That is exactly why it is so difficult to tuck away in a neat pile and put it on the shelf under jazz, rock or pop, its all of that and more done in an original and definitive way.

I prefer to give you the spirit of what is presented here and arouse your curiosity enough so you take it upon yourself to check out the music and develop your own opinion rather than give you the minutia. This is an opportunity to find something new in the tried and tested, like some of the standards that this duo explores through their own unique vision. Have a look for yourself; you never know what you might find.
 


Carl Hupp Project - Hyper Statue
Rating
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I have discovered a drummer that will knock your socks off, his name is Carl Hupp. He has an incredible CD/DVD set entitled Hyper Statue, recently released to kick off the New Year in style. If you are a jazz-rock-fusion fan, I highly recommend starting your musical year off right  by getting this CD. I guarantee it will be in common rotation in your stereo all year.

Hupp is an amazingly adept percussionist. He sites Billy Cobham and Bill Bruford amongst some of the key influences in his playing style. By all indications from this recording, he learned very well from his peers. Hupp has 22 musicians involved on this labor of love, which encompassed a two-year period. He was surprised it took that long; however, the results were well worth the wait. 

Fusion music is so exciting and interesting to listen to, every time you hear a track on an album like this you pick up something different, whether it is a prolific discovery or a subtle nuance, there is always a new road to travel. For that particular reason, I will listen to a CD like this three or four times before sitting down to gather my thoughts and type them out. The musicianship on this album is incredible! Everyone involved gave all their blood, sweat and tears; I have no doubt about that. I had so many different bands running through my head while listening to this, it prompted many nice thoughts and memories while engaging my listening aptitude to its fullest capacity (several times). 

If the CD was not enough (76:47) then there was the DVD (85:10) which was equally enjoyable and full of color and depth. I had so much fun watching the musicians play their individual parts and listening to how it sounded as they added it to each developing track.  It gives you an entirely different perception of the process once you go back and listen to the CD again. The studio setting was very informal and relaxed and Hupp even has his 10-year-old son come in to help with wind chimes and percussion. This entire experience made me feel like I was right there watching my next-door neighbor jam, it was very nice. Notably, bass player supreme Tony Levin showed up to play the Chapman Stick on the title track “Hyper Statue.” That fact only should tell how much respect Carl Hupp has in the music community. This genre is very communal in comparison to others. Super groups are formed and guest appearances are made so frequently it is hard to keep track of who is playing on what album. 

I do not know what else to say, I am completely stunned how excellent this production was. All I can say in closing is-if you are looking for rock, blues, jazz, progressive rock, or all of the above combined, played in a superior fashion…this will be one of the very best CDs you will hear in 2005.
 


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