Erik Norlander – Surreal
Think Tank Media – TTMD-1058
Keyboard maestro Erik Norlander has been unleashing his prodigious talents for quite a few years now. Beyond his projects including Rocket Scientists and Galactic Collective, as well as recording with “prog diva” wife Lana Lane and other acts, he does also circle around and simply stamp his own name on projects. Pure Erik Norlander…pure brilliance! His latest creation “Surreal” weaves down various avenues of progressive rock with some interesting paths, drawing in the listener and never letting up on the musical intrigue from start to finish. Erik does tend to launch his CDs with overtures, and here we have “The Party’s Overture” which meshes touches of hookiness with the right doses of instrumental prowess. “The Galaxy Collectors” is a sci-fi opus that gallops along with a boogie-type rhythmic vibe. “Suitcase and Umbrella” tilts in a mellower direction with alternating lush piano and synth passages, and a slightly bluesy tilt at times, especially when guitarist Alastair Greene (Alan Parsons Project) cuts loose. Lana lends her soaring vocal expertise to the title track, the only non-instrumental song; a mid-tempo groover that starts with a subtle intensity before blooming to a fierce finish. While Erik’s keyboard wizardry is the focal point, he also never shies away from allowing his musical cohorts display their chops. Along with Greene’s stellar guitar work, you have the wicked bass licks of Mark Matthews, the frenetic but stoic drumming of Nick LePar, and flavorful percussion additions from Greg Ellis. Returning collaborators Jeff Kollman, Mark McCrite, and Don Schiff lend their skills as well. Erik actually does not seem to be re-inventing the wheel here. In fact, it seems like sometimes he is more back to basics and keeping things on the simple side. But everyone knows that in the world of progressive rock, simple still means stunning musicianship, crisp but life-like production, and intriguing songwriting. Erik Norlander more then delivers on all those facets…he always has. It is very apparent he has a very deep well of innovative ideas to fuse with his love of music that shows no signs whatsoever of running dry. – MW
Mz Mali – New World Order
Staxx N Waxx Muzik
Women can rap just as good as the guys and if you doubt me, give this CD a spin. This is heady, brash and intoxicating rap/R&B with depth to the words and a gripping rhythmic base. Mz Mali also shows range as a vocalist beyond her rapping pyrotechnics, standing up to any modern R&B Diva. Songs like “Showstoppa” and “Set Up” are real ear-openers. This is freestyle rapping at its best.
Robert Rex Waller Jr. – Fancy Free
Western Seed Records – WSR-11CD
This singer-songwriter known for his prolific work with I See Hawks IN L.A. tributes his influences in this excellent cover CD. You find serious diversity here, from the haunting take on Neil Young’s “Albuquerque” and a snappy folk jolt to Willie Nelson’s “Me And Paul”, to a honky tonk lilt on The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset” and a bombastic psychedelic treatment of the Doors’ “Crystal Ship” where he does a great job vocally of channeling his inner Morrison. He is unafraid to put his own stamp on both classics and deep cuts from legends, and that in itself makes this one of the more refreshing cover albums out there.
Ruby Rose Fox – Domestic
Boston based pop singer-songwriter Ruby Rose Fox creates hypnotic music, with touches of Northeast U.S. toughness blended with an ethereal vibe. She slides in a subtle touch of diva-esque vocals at times, and it works where she does it, showcasing her incredible vocal range and the variance of emotive timbres. “Ms America” is perhaps a microcosm of her talents especially in the provocative lyrics. This is her second release and if this is any indication…look out!
Shari Puorto – My Obsession
Blues Rock Music
With her fourth CD, L.A.’s Shari Puorto continues to shine with her modern take on a classic R&B and blues template. Her sultry voice gets bawdy on the more rocking tunes and can really snare your soul with its crooning quality on the mellower tracks. Reminiscent of some of the grand dames of R&B’s past, Shari is quite adept at creating feel good music with the right touch of her own songwriting personality.
Sundown Delay – Rubik’s Cube is Fighting Back
Sweden is known primarily for blood-curdling heavy metal. Sundown Delay is working hard to change that perception. Well reminiscent power-wise of classic bands such as Saxon and Diamondhead, they have more of a depth to their music, adding in a more alt edge and even bits of prog, ska and punk. They are not trying to be commercial, just unique and powerful, and they accomplish both in this potent EP.
Waydown Wailers – Empty Promises
Woodstock Records – WR57
The second release by this upstate New York group led by Dave Parker and Christian “Moe” Parker shows a deeper exploration of talents both in songwriting and musical talents. They have a knack of taking a comforting mid-ground Americana rock feel ala Petty/Mellencamp and spicing it up with an envelope pushing sensibility. There are several standouts among the originals, but the cover of “Susie Q” really helps you understand their musical intentions. If their intentions are to write enjoyable music with just the right edgy bite to the songs, then it works wonderfully.