Sunday, August 23, 2015

CD Review – Thoughts of Tomorrow, by Uwe Gronau

German keyboardist-composer Uwe Gronau consistently puts out top-notch albums, but this just might be his best yet.

Gronau nails every track of this all-instrumental collection, from engaging melodies to radical synthesizer textures and sounds. Gronau also displays his virtuoso chops on primarily or solo piano tunes.

Co-producer and long-time collaborator Clemens Paskert also does a fantastic job keeping time, both behind an actual kit and with drum programming.

My only complaint is that many of the songs end abruptly, but that probably has more to do with the fact that each individual piece is so good that I didn't want it to end.

This is a slick, edgy fusion of jazz, pop, and rock that has both bounce and bite.

--Raj Manoharan

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Yvonne Craig (1937-2015)

Batgirrrl, Batgirl!
Batgirrrl, Batgirl!
Where do you come from, where do you go?
What is your scene, baby, we just gotta know.
Batgirrrl, Batgirl!
Batgirrrl, Batgirl!
Are you a chick who fell in from outer space?
Or are you real with a tender warm embrace?
Yaaa, whose baby are you?
Batgirrrl, Batgirl!
Yaaa, whose baby are you?

--Raj Manoharan

Alex Rocco (1936-2015)

Alex Rocco was most famous for his role in The Godfather, after which he went on to appear in many films and especially television shows of the 1970s and 1980s.

Most recently, I saw him in a couple of old episodes of Starsky and Hutch, playing a couple of different characters.

However, I remember him from my childhood as the father of one of the girls on The Facts of Life. He appeared on several episodes of that popular 1980s sitcom.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, August 9, 2015

CD Review – Road to Ambo, by Adam Andrews

This may be pianist Adam Andrews' debut album, but it sounds like anything but.

Rather than come off like the first work of a novice artist, the CD displays the immense talents of a seasoned and gifted composer and performer.

Andrews' brilliant composing and arranging abilities come through on eleven original tunes that also showcase his wide range of playing, from subtle and gentle to epic and compelling.

Andrews' recording career is off to a fantastic start with a second album already out, so now is as good a time as any to start following this bright and promising musician from the beginning.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, July 26, 2015

CD Review – Language of the Soul, by Steven Vitali

The latest album from world-renowned pianist StevenVitali showcases the artist's immense talents in a variety of musical settings.

The CD features 17 tracks that range from sensitive and thoughtful to sweeping and grandiose, with elements of industrial and techno thrown in for good measure.

The instrumentation on each song includes everything from a single piano to various combinations of keyboards, guitars, drums, and percussion.

The result is a sonic prism that filters the many facets of Steven Vitali's creative expression, which will be appreciated by piano enthusiasts as well as fans of music in general.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, July 19, 2015

CD Review – Songs of a Siren, by Lea Longo

Lea Longo's latest album is a buoyant take on world/new age music.

The CD contains 10 tracks that blend pop singing and songwriting with Indian mantras as perfectly as possible.

Longo has a classic, straightforward, and natural voice that puts today's synthetic, auto-tuned pop princesses to shame, resulting in great vocals regardless of whether she's singing English or Indian lyrics.

The album also has a fantastic sound, thanks to the talents of Radford Crasto on guitars and sitar, Andy Dacoulis on guitars, Alexandre Laoie on flute, Shawn Mativetsky on tabla, Alex Paquette on bass, Allister Philip on Fender Rhodes, and Jesse Tolbert on drums, percussion, guitar, synthesizer bass, and keyboards.

If you're looking for engaging pop music with depth, as well as an exciting alternative to the hackneyed mainstream, this is it.

--Raj Manoharan

Saturday, July 18, 2015

CD (Fan) Review – Metal Dog, by Andy Summers

At long last, the much-anticipated follow-up to Andy Summers and Robert Fripp's seminal, iconic, progressive experimental albums I Advance Masked and Bewitched is here – except this time, it's all Andy.

As befits his first fully independent, self-released solo recording, Summers truly goes it alone, composing all the music and playing all the instruments himself, including bass, keyboards, drums, and percussion. Summers pulls it off so well that it's easy to forget that he's the only musician in the studio. Of course, as always, his guitars, as well as other stringed instruments, are the focal point of the proceedings, with Summers producing exquisite, elegant leads, rhythms, and solos, covering a range of styles from blues and funk to jazz and rock.

While the 10-track collection definitely has the spirit and elements of the previously mentioned Fripp collaborations, as well as Summers' solo instrumental albums Mysterious Barricades, The Golden Wire, and Synaesthesia, it is at the same time fresh and original.

This is unlike anything Summers has done before, with its variety of textures, tempos, and time signatures. But Andy's classic sounds pop up here and there, reassuring us that our guitar god is still present as ever.

Although every composition is stirring, my favorites are “Ishango Bone,” “Bitter Honey,” and especially “Harmonograph,” with its slithery, electronic lead guitar. These are the most conventional sounding “songs” on the album, and even then they're unconventional. In a sense, Summers has come full circle from his eclectic musings on the track “Circe's Island” from David Bedford's 1976 album The Odyssey.

In its review of Summers' 1995/1996 release Synaesthesia, Entertainment Weekly wrote, “With Andy Summers, even if you expect the unexpected, you'll still be surprised.” This has been true of each and every project by Summers, and the epic, groundbreaking Metal Dog is certainly no exception.

--Raj Manoharan