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with Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck

Every couple weeks Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck will check in with 2 to 4 featured 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  Now on to this this installment of MusikMan where Keith tells us about new cds from .

O-Genio: Ray Charles 1963 Live in Brazil
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You know what is nice about writing a review on Ray Charles? He was celebrated while he was here in the world of the living, not after his passing.

O-Genio-Ray Charles 1963 Live in Brazil  is an early performance in black and white film of Ray and his incredible band performing live in Brazil in 1963. While the quality of the video is suspect at times, particularly on the second set, the performance by Charles and his orchestra is simple mesmersizing. To be honest I never delved into this man’s music as I did on this DVD. Much to my delight, I absolutely loved every minute of this. 

Charles really was a musical genius. His ability to take ordinary standards like “You Are My Sunshine” and  “My Bonnie” and turn them into soulful jazz workouts was a true wonder of musicianship and technical brilliance.

I can easily overlook the quality of the video for the historical importance and musical treasure that this performance captures. If you like the music of Ray Charles, or music in general for that matter, you will sincerely appreciate what this timeless DVD has to offer.   

Check out the eCard for the DVD

David Bowie and the Spiders From Mars - Inside Bowie and the Spiders (1969-1974)
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I have always had a fascination with the artistic genius of David Bowie. I think the man is brilliant, and he continues to reinvent himself every time he decides to release an album. Ziggy Stardust is the most famous role he ever played. What he sang about on the classic album was not too far from the truth, while it was fiction, it certainly seemed as though Bowie was living out the story in real life, finally breaking up the band at the height of their success just like his on stage alter ego. The lyrics touch a sensitive spot in all of us, particular on the outstanding track “Five Years,” where David seems like a clairvoyant discussing the future of mankind.

The ongoing series of independent critical reviews continues with an in depth analysis of Bowie and his Spiders from Mars from 1969-74. Mick Ronson (guitar), Trevor Bolder (bass) and Woody Woodmansey (drums) were one of the very best glam rock outfits of the entire decade that brought us classic rock. Ronson, Bolder and Woodmansey were brilliant players, and Bowie knew exactly what he was doing when he put the band together. Check out Ronson’s solo material, it is quite good. I concur with one of the critics; Ronson was a dreadfully underrated guitar player. 

This was a thoroughly enjoyable two-disc set with plenty of rare concert and backstage footage released for the first time, including a lovely hardcover book with some interesting reading inside to absorb before or after your viewing. I always seem to read afterwards because I am so excited about watching the DVDs! I have yet to take in one of the Classic Rock Production a set that was not a superb production from top to bottom. I suggest you snag up this prize if you are a Bowie fan and make sure you check out all the other titles the label has to offer, their catalog is becoming quite extensive. Long live Classic Rock!

Jethro Tull - Stormwatch
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Stormwatch is yet another underrated Jethro Tull album. This also signaled the end of an era. It would be the last album for the most effective JT lineup. John Glasock, their beloved bass player, passed away in the middle of this recording after open heart surgery, hence he played on only three tracks, some of the best ones at that, “Flying Dutchman,” “Orion” (my favorite), and “Elegy.” Ian Anderson finished the bass parts for the rest of the album.

The artwork is strikingly beautiful on this album. Ian’s cover concept was brilliant, and brought to life splendidly by artist David Jackson. Anderson truly was the key man in this band; he brought together an album from top to bottom and made it happen in a magical way. Martin Barre was typically outstanding, this entire band was special, and it is too bad it had to end; then again, Jethro Tull would not have evolved into what it is today if the history books were written differently. The two mainstays, Anderson and Barre, are managing to keep it all alive to this day thank god.

This is a very strong effort from JT and beautifully remastered for optimal sound by the label. Four bonus tracks make this reissue that much more interesting and desirable. It is difficult not to be biased when you love a band so much; however, it is easy to review such consistently great music. 

Ryan Drolet - Trippin’ Wet
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Ryan Drolet adopts a simple approach to recording, what you hear is what you get, there is no cutting and pasting of parts or technological wizardry involved with his creative process. Trippin’ Wet is an all-instrumental free form live recording right off the floor. Drolet likes to call it ambient or acid jazz, I refer to it as jazz fusion. 

The musicians that participate with Drolet get an opportunity to spread their wings and fly on this inventive and engaging project. The outcome is an amazing work of musical art.

I admit it, it took more than one listen, actually several, to take this entire recording in for what its worth. There is a lot going on here. God bless the rhythm section of Brad Ferguson (bass) and Tim Proznick (drums), they lay down some complicated rhythms and odd time signatures while Dan Graham (keyboards) adds a touch of class to the mix. Drolet’s fine six-string improvisation makes the top layer of this multi tiered jazz treat into something unique and entertaining. 

Even though Drolet may seem like a jazz purist with his methodology, he certainly takes on a decidedly progressive outlook like an Al Di Meola or Chick Corea. The best way to make your music is to take a page out of the book of the masters from the past then add your own chapter. Drolet writes his own novel on this strong release. For the rock and progressive fans there is equal amounts of enjoyment on this album like on “A Minor Jam” and “Stratosfear” (he probably uses a Stratocaster on this cut). Then you take a step back into a jazzier funky workout with “Modus Operandi” and “Monkeys.” I loved the opening track “Spy Song,” it had some nice twangy surf parts that caught my ear; it is quite different and it gives absolutely no indication as to what is coming next. Its all great music, there is no other way to explain it.

If you have not heard of Ryan Drolet yet, trust me, you will a lot more as time passes. This young man is masterful.

John Amen - All I’ll Never Need
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John Amen is baked from the mold of the Bob Dylan’s of the world. He gives his audience All I’ll Never Need to digest, 13 tracks of emotionally moving music. He has some of the most interesting lyrics I have heard and the music is quite good as well, particularly on the electrified “Daddy” and “Wild Dogs and Ostriches.” 

Amen has a primary focus; he is a poet/singer/guitar player that carries his message through well thought out lyrics and a folk-rock country sound (for the most part).

At first I thought he sounded a little bit too much like Dylan but after the album moved on it became clear that he does have his own sound, there are similarities to other artists, which is a commonality amongst anyone that records music, that is a fact of life, we all have our influences. I appreciated his emotion and passion; it is more than obvious from the outset that this man performs from a place in his heart and soul.

If you like folk and rock with a poetic justice and sense of reason, this is music for you.

Ayreon - Into The Electric Castle
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Arjen Lucassen a.k.a. Ayreon, is well known for his epic progressive rock space operas. In 2001, he released an absolute masterpiece, and one that I ashamed to say, that I missed somehow. Well time is the healer and now three years later, Inside Out Music signed a deal with Lucassen to reissue his music and Into The Electric Castle, a double album of progressive rock stories and sci-fi fantasy, is one of those releases. This special edition features a Quicktime movie of Arjen in the studio discussing the album. In the liner notes, he refers to this recording as a classic, and no doubt, it most certainly is.

Typical of Ayreon, he engaged many of the brightest stars available to help tell his story and play the music to set the stage for his characters. Artists such as Fish and Damian Wilson perform vocal parts (look at the credits for the extensive list) and Clive Nolan and Robby Valentine provide keyboards, and Arjen is on everything- guitars, vocals, mandolin, bass, moog and mellotron.

This is an incredibly eclectic mix of rock music. You can hear all the influences of Lucassen come bubbling to the surface, those wonderful classic rock bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Alan Parsons, and of course, the immortal Beatles. Were would prog-rock be without Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? 

You cannot help it; you become sucked into the story by the mesmerizing music and the incredible vocals of all the contributors. Essentially the story revolves around a group of stolen souls that come from different times to enter a strange portal that takes them on a dangerous journey. All of their trials and tribulations are explored in each song, until they reach the Electric Castle were they must choose between door number 1 or 2, nuclear portals that take you back to your own time or into an eternal abyss of oblivion.

This is truly a fascinating work of music and story. Arjen really should sit down and write a science fiction novel, he certainly has the imagination and talent to do so. This music is so powerful and melodic that it becomes easy to envision everything that is happening during the story. I think they should make this into a movie it would be fantastic! I cannot say enough about how excellent all of the instrumentation and vocals are throughout this album. For this much music, you would expect some filler, it never happens, every track is superb. Do you call yourself a prog-rock fanatic? You do not qualify as such until this album is part of your collection.

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