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Cool Progressive Releases from Blackfield, Marillion and Ulver
Over the past few weeks, I've received three rather interesting prog-leaning releases, all worth a spin.
Live From Cadogan Hall Marillion (Racket - Available in 2CD or 2DVD set)
In 2009, neo-prog rockers Marillion (guitar tab) released an album titled Less Is More, which featured 11 of their own songs deconstructed and reinvented for acoustic performance. This approach led the band to experiment with new instrumentation including hammered dulcimer, glockenspiel, xylophone, and autoharp, among others. The results were not only fascinating but also fantastic. And so on the final night of their Less Is More tour, at London's prestigious Cadogan Hall, the band filmed the show in high definition, to create this live album.
Live From Cadogan Hall is split into two sets. The first features the same track listing as Less Is More, and in the second set, the band gives ten other Marillion classics the same acoustic reinterpretation. Highlights from the two discs include "Interior Lulu," "Hard as Love," "Quartz," "You're Gone," "Estonia," and, of course, "Easter."
Buy it here.
Welcome to My DNA Blackfield (Snapper/Kscope)
This new album marks the third collaboration between Israeli singer-songwriter Aviv Geffen and Porcupine Tree mastermind Steven Wilson, and like on their two previous efforts (Blackfield and Blackfield II), the duo have composed a majestic collection of lush, compelling, pop-leaning pieces that will leave progressive rock fans salivating for more. Highlights include the chills-inducing ballad "Rising on the Tide," the acoustic guitar-driven "Waving," the Middle-Eastern sounds and pulse of "Blood," and the fragile album closer, "DNA."
Buy it here.
Wars of the Roses Ulver (Jester/Kscope - 5/3)
Ulver was an early pioneer of the renowned Norwegian black metal scene, but on their latest release, Wars of the Roses, the band takes a distinct turn toward the atmospheric sounds of progressive art-rock leanings. While the lyrical content remains dark and haunting, but it's transported musically via psychedelic synths and immersive drum beats with a splash of avant-garde experimentalism. Highlights include the haunting "Providence"; "September IV," which is what Pink Floyd might sound like if they tried to write Coldplay songs; and album closer "Stone Angels," a narration by Daniel O'Sullivan of text written by American poet Keith Waldrop.
New Blues Releases Worth Checking Out
Here are some of the cool discs to have crossed the GI desk in recent weeks.
Wrong Side of the Blues Trampled Under Foot (TUF/Vizztone)
Comprising Schnebelen siblings Nick (guitar), Danielle (bass), and Kris (drums), this Kansas City blues family affair is on anything but the wrong side of the blues on their Vizztone debut. All three sing, but the trio soars highest when li'l sis Danielle takes the mic. Brother Nick's guitar work strikes just the right balance of fire and restraint throughout. Highlights include "Get It Straight," "She's Long, Tall and Gone" (featuring Kim Wilson on harmonica), "Goodbye," and "Evil Train (with Johnny Lee Schnell on cigar box guitar!).
Shake 'Em on Down Rory Block (Stony Plain)
On this tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell, Block pummels her Martin acoustic into submission as she covers seven of the blues legend's classic sides and offers up four originals inspired by the Mississippi Man as well as Sonny Boy Williamson's "Good Morning Little School Girl." The whole record is just Block's superb voice and her stunning slide guitar work, and she fills the space like few performers can. Highlights include the title track, "Mississippi Man," and "The Breadline."
Translucent Blues Ray Manzarek/Roy Rogers (Blind Pig - May 24)
For this collaboration between Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek and modern-day slide guitar specialist Roy Rogers, the pair worked their blues magic around lyrical contributions from American poets Michael McClure (beat poet), Jim Carroll ("The Basketball Diaries"), Warren Zevon, Michael C. Ford (friend of Jim Morrison), and Scott Richardson. Highlights include "Hurricane," "Fives and Ones," and "An Organ, a Guitar and a Chicken Wing."
61 and 49 The Mike Eldred Trio (Zoho - May 10)
Rockabilly-fueled fire from L.A. blues scene vet Mike Eldred with ex-Blasters rhythm section John Bazz (bass) and Jerry Angel (drums), and with guest guitar spots from Scotty Moore, Cesar Rosas, and Kid Ramos. Eldred wields his axe with a no-fear attitude, generating the sort of tension blues fans just love to hear. Album highlights include "Jake's Boogie," "Ms. Gayle's Chicken House," "I Ain't Comin' Back," and "Lookie Here."
Traveling Fool Brad Vickers and His Vestapolitans (ManHatTone - May 15)
If rootsy, Americana early rock-influenced blues is your thing, this new Brad Vickers disc will make you swing. Though most of the material comes from the straightahead early rock 'n' roll sound, the album's best moments occur when Vickers steps outside that zone and into the Prairie Home Companion-y "Diggin' My Potatoes," the slow country blues of "Leave Me Be," the ragtime-y "Glad Rags," or the jazzy clarinet-led "In My Dream."
Review of New Troy Stetina Instructional DVD and Second Soul CD
Guitarist Troy Stetina is a legend in the guitar education business, with over 1 million books/methods sold. His latest venture is an instructional guitar DVD from Fret 12 titled The Sound and the Story, jam packed with 3-1/2 hours of video footage, including guest lessons from Mark Tremonti, Michael Angelo Batio, Eric Friedman, and Bill Peck, and a 36-page tab booklet.
Cool point #1 is that Troy doesn't just offer up three hours of "look at me" licks; rather, he focuses on the essentials of making music on the guitar. Whether covering such core topics as playing in time, picking control, and clear articulation or teaching and demonstrating advanced licks and phrasing, Troy consistently hammers home the advice that you practice purposefully and with a clear goal in mind.
The video starts with pick-hand exercises using tremolo picking in various rhythmic groups, then moves on to fret-hand legato exercises comprising various finger combinations, before putting it together to tackle synchronization. To his credit, Troy does not regurgitate the same old "1-2-3-4" shapes we've all seen a zillion times; instead, he offers more useful and musical shapes and, more importantly, shows you how to create your own exercises to address the trouble spots in your own playing that you discover along the way.
Troy next moves on to meatier topics like fretboard navigation, intervallic structure, secrets to writing killer riffs, and tips for playing in the pocket. But above all, Troy's "take-home point" is that playing guitar should be effortless—an activity as natural as feeding yourself or tying your shoes. And knowing that Troy used the same exercises and concepts he's teaching to achieve his own stunning technique goes a long way in providing inspiration that you can do it, too. Like he says, "It's as simple as moving one finger at a time."
* * *
Troy and his band Second Soul have just released their debut album, Beyond the Infinite, a pummeling 15-track effort produced and mixed by Troy along with singer Scott Yanke and drummer Eddie Szczepanski in Stetina's own Artist Underground Studio.
The disc kicks off with a balls-out instru-metal version of "Flight of the Bumblebee" before entering more straightforward territory. As you may know, Troy for a brief time gave soloing lessons to Mark Tremonti, and in exchange, Mark—one of the best rock riff writers of the past 20 years—offered Troy songwriting tips, which he most certainly put to use on album highlight "Shine Down." With a chorus hook that could net a marlin, a blistering yet melody-rich solo, and classic breakdown, the track is a radio-ready rocker. Other album highlights include Troy and Mark dueling shred solos in the outro to "Burn," the progressive-leaning "Deceiver," the acrobatic guitar opening and dynamically rich "Goodbye," and the acoustic-based power ballad "Beautiful."
Troy Stetina has always had great appeal to guitar players, but with this new band effort, he may soon find much wider audiences.
For more info or to buy The Sound and the Story and/or Second Soul's Beyond the Infinite, visit stetina.com.
Jeff Loomis and Van Williams Leave Nevermore
Nevermore guitar player Jeff Loomis and drummer Van Williams have announced their departure from the group. The two have released a joint statement:
"In a mutual decision Jeff Loomis and Van Williams have decided to leave Nevermore. The time has come to pursue our own paths from the group. Due to internal struggles and ongoing issues within the band, we feel it is our time to move on. We would like to thank all of our fans around the world for their years of love, support and enthusiasm. This was not an easy decision but a very necessary one at this point, may we all meet again someday, somewhere in time."
Loomis and Williams had been with Nevermore since the band's first album, 1995's self titled, Nevermore.
Nevermore recently announced that they would be cancelling their planned tour with Symphony X. No information regarding additional confirmed tour dates is known at this time.
K.K. Downing Officially Retires From Judas Priest
It seems Judas Priest indeed has another thing comin'—a new guitarist. In a surprising announcement, founding guitarist K.K. Downing has decided to formally retire and will not play on the band's Epitaph Tour this summer. British guitarist Richie Faulkner has been tabbed to step in and fill Downing's slot on the tour.
The band released the following statement at their web site today:
It is with regret that Judas Priest announce that K.K. Downing has formally retired from the band and will therefore not be joining them on their forthcoming Epitaph Tour.
The band respect his decision and naturally all wish him well.
Having thought long and hard about how to proceed, Rob, Glenn, Ian, and Scott unanimously agreed that they should go ahead with the tour and not let the fans down all around the world.
Fate also stepped in and delivered the perfect replacement - 31 year old British guitar player Richie Faulkner. He has blended into the band perfectly and is a great talent who is going to help se the stage on fire!
The Epitaph tour will include songs from every Priest studio album and also tracks they have never before performed on stage plus all the old favorites!
With a new album due to be released next year, the metal gods are preparing to tour the planet once more - heavy metal at its best, complete with lasers, lights, bikes and hellfire! It's a show not to be missed!
The Epitaph tour begins June 7, in Tilburg, Holland. For a complete list of tour dates, visit JudasPriest.com.
Vernon Reid Names Five Essential Jazz Albums For Metalheads
Although his band Living Colour is best known for their funkified hard rock/metal, guitarist Vernon Reid has long touted the influence of jazz music on his playing. This week, Reid talked with Revolver magazine and offered up his list of five essential jazz records for metalheads, shown here:
Click here to read what Reid had to say about each entry. Meanwhile, if you're a rocker or a metalhead interested in getting into jazz, check out some of these titles from Hal Leonard.
GuitarInstructor Presents Guitar Chord Lyrics Sheets
Over the past three years, GuitarInstructor.com has become the leading online destination for official guitar tab for such legendary artists as The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Van Halen. Now we're excited to announce that we've expanded our guitar tab and sheet music offerings to include Hal Leonard's vastly popular Guitar Chords/Lyrics format, which provides users with an "expanded lead sheet" containing chord frames for all the song's chords, along with chord symbol placement above the lyric lines, so you can strum along with your all-time favorite tunes the first time through.
This format is especially popular among guitarists who simply want to sing their favorite songs and strum along on an acoustic or electric guitar and who aren't concerned about having note-for-note transcriptions of every riff, lick, and solo. But guitar chord/lyrics sheets aren't limited to coffee houses and open mics, either. More advanced guitarists will find these arrangements useful as guide sheets on a gig, and since the typical guitar chord/lyric sheet is 2-3 pages in length, it fits easily on a music stand.
To browse our more than 5,500 guitar chords/lyrics sheet titles, click here.
Or look for your guitar chord/lyrics sheets by your favorite artist here:
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Simon & Garfunkel