Steve Hunter: Tone Poems Live

As Seen on Classic Rock Radio (UK)

Originally Published: 03 Nov 2014

Uncle G’s FUN Music Reviews
New Music from Classic Rockers
Spotlight: Steve Hunter – Tone Poems Live (Audio CD 2014 Singular Recordings / Gokuhi, LLC)

By Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBrown0816

Steve Hunter - Tone Poems Live - cover

If I had to describe Steve Hunter’s newest release, Tone Poems Live, then I’d say it’s an instrumental album with feeling. “Retro sounding”, a local professional Houston bass player told me. In a warehouse environment, I played it aloud for that little piece of the world to hear. Questions directed at me on what happened to be a beautiful Sunday afternoon ranged from who was the artist we were hearing, to what’s the name of the CD, and one of my personal favorites…are you going to Pink’s Pizza later on? A slice of good old fashion cheese pizza, and memories of my youth flash before me. Included in that is the guitar stylings of Steve Hunter. For back in the day and more recently, Steve played with Alice Cooper. Both the band and solo artist. Really not a bad lick anywhere, which is why I imagine they keep asking him to come back. Alice rocks!! And in part due to Steve’s musicianship over the years, Vince/Alice has received the recognition that equals that of his work with the original Alice Cooper band. Example, on Welcome 2 My Nightmare (2011) Alice’s follow-up to his mega debut solo smash hit album Welcome To My Nightmare (1975), Steve’s playing steals the show on the opening song, ‘I Am Made of You’. Since doing this professionally, Mr. Hunter has performed with the legendary Lou Reed (RIP), David Lee Roth, Meat Loaf (toured), and Peter Gabriel; then add his own catalog of solo material. An outstanding career, and one that gets spotlighted in this newest live release.

For the record, this review is all about the audio CD. I have yet to view the DVD. In soon enough time, believe me, I will. In the meantime, the audio disc is holding me over nicely.

The word “live” does not, in this case, mean Steve and his band are playing in front of thousands of people doing a concert somewhere, but instead performing all together at the same time in a recording studio. Considered old school nowadays, and the way Steve is comfortable getting the task done. The results pay off.

Joining Mr. Hunter on this project is Mr. Tony Levin on bass. I would have purchased the new CD with it being a new Steve Hunter release, even if Tony wasn’t in the band. Now, I have two reasons why to purchase it. Have been a Tony Levin fan for some time now. As a new aspiring bass player with two lessons under my belt, I can safely say the man will inspire me to play the bass to the best of my abilities, till my last dying day. And by the way, Tony is having a GREAT year also. Besides working with Steve, Mr. Levin just put out the coolest traditional jazz album with his brother Pete entitled Levin Brothers (Lazy Bone Recordings). As they say, variety being the spice of life, I do branch out from classic rock from time to time. Doing just that, I came across The Levin Brothers – the CD, a newly released gem. Back to Steve, his playing is a bit of everything; bluesy, jazzy, funky, and the dude rocks! Steve Hunter – Tone Poems Live proves that with every repeated spin. Assisted by Dave Mason’s drummer, Mr. Alvino Bennett, and a very cool keyboardist with yet another impressive past, Mr. Philip Aaberg.

The Music:

Each track is a part of Steve, even if not the composer. All my years of hearing Steve on record, or on live recordings, I can only assume after all this time, that the guitar and Steve are one. That the instrument is akin to a soul mate. Something special/dear to him. I’d like to strive for the same regarding my own bass playing. With some musicians, entertaining is nothing more than a job. Pays the bills. I never get that feeling with Steve Hunter. That guitar playing isn’t just a learned skill, but when done right, the sounds emitted, a universal language enjoyed by damn near all who reside on this planet. I have met a few people over the course of my life, who say they don’t like/get music. Puzzles my mind.

The first two songs on Steve Hunter’s Tone Poem Live, ‘The Idler’ and ‘222 W. 23rd’ absolutely blow me away! From precise to funky, to even sexy. The volume is now set to LOUD. It’s not that it gets better but instead stays consistent. That’s the magic. No vocalist here and the center of attention just happens to be one of the best guitarists in music today and his friends. Accompanied by those behind the scenes that make this all a solid CD from beginning to end. Nice!!

Rating: I could go on and on about each track and how wonderful I find sitting back and enjoying each and every song. Instead, I’ll speed up the process and just say flat out that if anything I said up to this points interest you, then go check this out. Just stick Steve’s Tone Poem Live CD in your home stereo, press play, and let its marvelous sounds fill the space you feel secure enough to walk around naked in from time to time. Not too loud that the cops come banging on the door. Kills the mood.

Uncle G’s rating of Steve Hunter – Tone Poems Live, using the one to five star rating system commonly found on the Internet, I give 5 Stars (and five exclamation points). This CD is worthy of major awards and at least one follow up project with the same musicians.

Uncle G’s Helpful Weblinks


Remembering Peter Banks

As Seen On Classic Rock Radio (UK)
Originally Published: 09 May 2013

Remembering Peter Banks

Story and Photography by
Classic Rock Radio (UK) American Correspondent Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBRown0816

Peter Banks - Tribute Story

Part One

In reflection, maybe I should have written this sooner. It’s now been some time…over a couple months…since Peter passed away. I, like everyone else, have my share of problems dealing with death. First off, it’s so damn final. Add to that the grief associated with it. When my parents both passed by the time I was eleven, I figured I used up all my tears, and sorrow. Every Blue Moon I find that to be not true. Something bad happens, or someone I know passes.

Peter Banks was a good acquaintance. This was due to us having a mutual friend; William “Billy” James. Billy helped Peter with his autobiography. Part of the book launching included Peter having an Internet platform. That’s where I came in. A big enough deal to where Mr. Banks called my home a few times. Our chats were enjoyable, and on his dime, rather long ones. We both were comfortable talking to each other, so much so we even discussed our wives and his liking for going to the pub at night. I found his conversations very entertaining. Was a pleasure to chat with. Peter even mentioned us getting together one day for a brew. An invite I was never able to accept. Between us, we had more than 4000 miles and some rather vast bodies of water. Cool to say we at least entertained the thought.

I lost touch with Peter after the book came out. A failed attempt to get Banks together with a musician friend of mine who was visiting the UK crashed and burned. Add to that the world’s technology was changing so rapidly. Yahoo Groups, who reigned supreme for discussion groups and what we used for an official Peter Banks newsletter, in time advanced itself to MySpace. That was for a time, all the rage. Someone else who knew far more about internet technology was helping him with that. My job was done.

Regarding Peter’s music, I didn’t know who he was until Atlantic Records released a record of past Yes material, put out before their success here in the States. Graced with beautiful artwork from Roger Dean, they called the album: Yes – Yesterdays (1975). It motivated me down the road to get the first two Yes albums Peter was on: Yes (1969) and Time And A Word (1970). As time went by I played those two first releases till I knew them note for note. If I had to pick a favorite song; Astral Traveller.

In the mid to late 1990’s, I was music CD shopping in Webster, Texas one day when I found an interesting one filed within the Yes bin (so to catch a fan’s attention): Affirmative – The Yes Solo Family Album (1993 OoP). One of the tracks was a new Peter Banks piece called “Dominating Factor.” I bring it home. HOLY SHIT !!! The groove…the cool sound bites…and that kick ass guitar playing…I LOVED THIS SONG !!! Motivated me to buy the CD it originated on called: Peter Banks – Instinct. Peter’s then second solo record. After the first few initial plays, I was hooked and collecting music with Peter’s involvement in it became a part-time hobby. I was aware of Peter’s band after Yes called Flash so I got all their CD’s. Then came the band Empire. Likewise, I got all those CD’s. Later, I was introduced via the world wide web and electronic mail to Mark Murdock. He was the drummer on Empire’s Mark III (archived and then released by One Way Records Inc. 1996). A contributor to Peter’s newsletter.

Maplecrest - Yes Collection - bookcase

So, by the time Billy James included me in his promo machine, I had become a serious fan of Peter’s work. His solo albums, in my opinion, are guitar instrumental masterpieces. And get this…the dude can shred !! So much so that Banks felt he must give warning. One can find this written on the backing of Peter’s solo 1995 CD, Self Contained:

“Contains guitar riffs which some people may find offensive.”

When I mentioned how much I enjoyed his solo music to him, Peter came across as being proud, but at the same time brushing it off like they weren’t the achievements they really were. Still, sensing I was interested, Peter took the time educating me on some of his recordings and playing techniques. Extremely fascinating and I clung on to his every word.

I remember my first phone conversation with Peter. My mission was to sell Peter on the idea of an internet newsletter. This is when he informed me he knew nothing about computers or the Internet. Mr. Banks had a reputation for seriously NOT wanting to talk about his past association with Yes. Now he was at a place where he was cool with a whole book coming out about him that not only dealt with Yes, but with everything else as well. Or was he?

So here I was, pitching the newsletter. Taking a deep breath, I spit it out and hoped for a good reaction. My pitch went something like this; (The newsletter)… “would celebrate your past, yet center on today and what is currently going on with your career.” I heard silence for a few moments and then we went over the concept. All was fine. He then told me about his good friend in the States: George Mizer. With Peter in the UK and Billy and I here in America, it was cheaper to use George as a go-between when considering the costs of phone calls. Mr. Mizer and I ended up working well together. Wasn’t a paying gig for either of us. Our reward was knowing the launching of the book was a success. And that it was.


In my opinion, Peter made some of the best rock guitar instrumental albums on the planet. His estate should put out re-issues and also issue a greatest hits. With the right marketing, his CD’s should be consistent sellers for decades, and centuries to come. I have yet to play any aloud and NOT have whoever was around me, at least not like what they were hearing. Well, birds of a feather do flock together. Yet, Peter had his critics. My own personal interactions and observations conclude the Yes community, on the whole, didn’t embrace Peter’s music. Or maybe it was just, Peter? At least that was my experience when I was helping coordinate his newsletter. One borderline YesFanatic told me how anyone can pick a guitar fast like that when referring to Banks ’90’s solo CD’s. Majority interest of the YES FAN BASE was the so-called “classic line-up” (Anderson, Howe, Squire, White, and Wakeman) in which Banks was not a part.

Part Two

Truth be told, if it was Steve Howe, the same guy who brushed off Peter’s ability to play fast (yet precise) would be saying how skilled Howe was for his ability to shred. In essence, do the same damn thing! YesTool. I had the strange feeling as if Banks threatened a certain percentage of Yes’ fan base. I never could put my finger on it. Personally speaking, I got into Banks music as much as I did any of the other past or present Yes members. I have a shitload of CD’s in a cabinet (under lock and key) that I call my “Yes-related” collection. Am proud to have most of Peter’s catalog of officially released CD’s. Some are out of print now and worth a few bucks, especially after Peter’s passing. It’s all “YesTreasure” as far as I’m concerned. It’s been more than a good hobby. My whole Yes and YesRelated CD Collection…an archival of outstanding music in which Peter, is and will forever be a part.


If one reads Peter’s book, or the liner notes in the Yes archive CD he helped with called Yes – Somethings Coming, then you would know Peter had a pretty good sense of humor. Highly sarcastic at times. I could understand how people might have taken his comments, either in print or audio, negatively. He used newspaper/magazine/liner notes or audio (music or speech) to make a point. Anything at his disposal. Example, on his first solo record, Two Side Of Peter Banks, one can hear something very similar to a tune Yes came out with after Peter’s departure from the band called “Roundabout.” Banks had said how when the band did warm-ups that he would play what he believes eventually became Yes’ biggest hit at the time. Overall one got the impression Banks felt cheated, especially when it came to royalties/money. Peter made some comments about that subject that I’ll just never forget. At the intro to a song called “Fathat” found on Peter’s solo Reduction, one hears the following with music in the background, but turned down so one can hear what is being said:

A Ladies Voice: “Where does a man get inspiration to write a song like that?”

A Guys Voice Replies: “He gets it from the landlady once a month.”

In the Peter Banks song “Sticky Wicket” from his Instinct CD, here’s the dialogue blended in with some of the coolest guitar playing you’d ever want to hear:

A Guys Voice: “Oh I wouldn’t like that and neither would my daughter.”

Found on the next track of the CD Shortcomings:

A Ladies Voice: “And I just wanna know, like with the reunion coming up where are, like the other ones and like, whatever happened to the other guys and why not bring out Peter Banks? I’d like to know where he is.” (note: transcribed to the best of my ability – GB)

Taken from a nationally broadcast radio program when members from Yes, who were a part of the Union Tour, were taking questions from folks who called in. The sound bite, perhaps a reference to a Yes reunion that went horribly wrong. Yes was on their successful Union Tour. Peter was scheduled to do an encore with them at one show. The exciting day arrived, Peter the professional musician that he was, showed up on time as was planned, and it didn’t happen. A sad story to hear, let alone watch the words come out of his mouth in the 2006 documentary: Yes – Classic Artists (2006).

On Peter’s album Self-Contained (1995), at the end of the fourth track called “Massive Trouser Clearance,”…well…this does sound somewhat bitter. If I may say so…

Announcer: “Although it made classic rock in a commercial sense, some critics argue that Yes’ music is pretentious and empty.”

Peter Banks: “Yeah that’s valid. I’d go along with that as well.”

Now that’s a real Peter Banks deep cut…ouch.

Update 2013 and I understand that communication was re-opened having some positive results with certain past individuals associated with Yes. Also worth noting, that whatever his professional gripes were, Banks pushed all that aside and showed great respect to his parents on solo recordings. Inspired by his Mom, he made beautiful music. For us others, Peter could rock your socks off.

Years ago, one Summer day when at an ice cream joint with Michael Bruce (original Alice Cooper member), playing over the loud system was Lionel Richie’s hit song “Hello.” Michael knew Peter played on the tune. It was my turn to order and I looked behind me to see what MB was getting and the dude wasn’t there. I excused myself and got out of line. Started looking around for Brother Bruceski. Found him in the back of the joint, by the speakers. Michael told me he wanted to hear Peter’s guitar work better and then added when the song finished, how impressed he was with his smooth playing. I noticed when I was helping Peter with his newsletter that other musicians really dug Peter’s ability and knowledge of the six-string instrument he mastered. Other ex-Yes members noticed (Billy Sherwood_Oliver Wakeman), and were so kind to have Peter on their projects. A win-win situation for everyone after hearing the results of the collaboration. Seeing Banks name on a new project, was always good news for me and as a fan as I was never disappointed in whatever Peter’s contribution was.

The catalog of music Peter left behind is enough for him to indeed leave his stamp that he was here. I have faith that folks until the end of time will find Peter’s music and appreciate it the same way I and so many others have and will do throughout our lifetime.


Peter Banks Empire – The Mars Tapes (2014)


As Seen on the Website of Classic Rock Radio (UK)

Originally Published: 07 January 2015

Uncle G’s FUN Music Reviews

Spotlight: Peter Banks Empire – The Mars Tapes (2014)

By: Gary “Uncle G” Brown

Twitter @GBrown0816


Peter Banks Empire - The Mars Tapes - cover

Imagine my panic when, on the day I set aside to write about Peter Banks Empire – The Mars Tapes, that it’s revealed that the second disc of the two-disc set is…MISSING! Lucky for me, I knew where it was. In an automobile that I rented and gave back to its rightful owner the day before. Listened to both discs driving up and back to San Antonio during the recently passed Christmas holidays. When returning the vehicle I made double sure to look and make sure I didn’t forget anything, neglecting to check the fancy CD player we used the entire four hundred mile round trip. Would have sucked if the CD was lost/thrown away.

A couple days after returning the vehicle, a happy ending took place as I was reunited with the disc at the Enterprise Car Rental place in Katy, Texas. Nice people over there. In the meantime, while missing the second disc, I played the first disc a few more times. Worked out fine, really. Oh, wait…I caught a nasty ass cold, and after that had three back teeth removed in my lower jaw (receiving stitches in my mouth). The pain once the novocaine wore off…Holy Shit! I promise myself that I’d NEVER do that EVER again. It hurt so much. The first few days after was pretty unbearable 24/7. Then every day after that, a tad less painful than the day before. In total, about five or six weeks of agony! And all through this, I’m playing mostly this new Empire / Peter Banks archival two CD project. Now having survived, I can say it helped me through by rearranging my focus. Shifted my attention onto something else. Along with some hot tea and honey, Peter Banks Empire – The Mars Tapes became a cool distraction from everything I was physically having to deal with. Onward through the fog.

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention that I once worked with Peter Banks, trying to help him promote an autobiography, he penned with the help of William (Billy and not William regarding the authorship recognition first name) James; titled ‘Beyond And Before…The Formative Years of Yes.’ This is back at the turn of the century. Sometime after publication, I lost touch. Enjoyed the contact I had with Peter. With him in the United Kingdom and myself in the United States, the phone and fax machine was our main source of communication. Peter was always nice to me, at least until one of my good friends royally screwed up involving getting his wife (after Sidonie) and himself free admittance into an Alice Cooper show, and then hanging out after the show together. The whole thing planned ahead of time. Very professional actually. Never happened. My friend got so involved with what he was doing that he totally forgot about Peter and his wife, leaving them hanging at the door. My part was being a go-between, and setting everything up. I drew up an itinerary, that my musician friend, totally ignored, being caught up in all the excitement. Wasn’t on purpose at all. Was seriously disappointed with the outcome. Again, nothing I directly did. Frankly, I’d be super pissed as well with the traveling that was required, and be it all for nothing. So there went my contact with Peter. Still, I remained a loyal listener. Up to the end, he stayed active, and his playing was still top-notch. Broke my heart hearing the news of Peter’s passing (2013).

Think how shocked I was when towards the end of 2014, here comes along some unreleased Empire music. Of course, I’m interested. Could my review be biased? A distinct possibility, so much so that I’d say YES myself. Be it as it may, I decided the BEST thing to do would be if I went down another path. Therefore, instead of a straightforward review, the following are my impressions, listening to what I believe is one of the best archival projects to come down the pike in a while. From a band led by a man labeled the architect of Progressive Rock. Empire’s music encompassed many styles even containing a hint of what was popular on the charts via record company/companies request. Remember disco? A tune called ‘Dancing Man’ comes to mind that Empire did. Rehearsed to play live as well, as a part of a Empire medley. Included in The Mars Tapes (disc one) for your listening pleasure.

Imagine if you will, a professional, established progressive rock musician trying to jump-start a band to his liking, when music not of his kind, is ruling the airwaves. The promotional norm at the time by newer and younger rockers was to simply talk shit about established bands. One example was labeling the chart toppers “Dinosaurs”. This said with intent to kill interest in them, while at the same time boosting their own popularity. The musical tide was surely changing, and unfortunately, just never in the direction Peter or Empire needed it to go.

Fact is Peter Banks Empire was a band that had three major attempts at becoming a commercial musical act, and failed at doing so, ALL three times. In their defense, years after the band broke up and went their separate ways, the music they created did see the light of day. Three CD’s labeled Empire…featuring Peter Banks, Mark I, Mark II, and Mark III. One Way Records in the 1990’s put these out. Yours truly being the BIG Peter Banks fan, of course purchased all three at the time of their release. Out of print and collector’s items nowadays. Note, knowing I would write something about the newest P.B’s Empire release (The Mars Tapes), I re-acquainted myself with these recordings recently. The third CD of demos/studio recordings, Mark III, compliments this recent release very well. Same musician roster. Here’s the band practicing what would have been a pretty cool setlist if they even got a chance to perform anywhere in front of a paid crowd. And they would have had that, had Mark I have been released properly, and money spent promoting the song, ‘Out Of Our Hands’ been made a single. Could have been a hit, or at least got respected airplay. Its success would have launched the band towards popularity, and that is what makes money and keeps things afloat. As humans mature, sometime during the process most of us learn, and it’s usually always the hard way, that hopes and dreams cost money. Adds up quickly. As does time in a professional recording studio.

Empire had a six-year history with major occurrences happening between projects. This was Peter’s group. He devoted his all to this. The time frame was 1974 to 1980. When the financially, bad times hit, he slept on people’s couches while playing salesman, trying to get the band it’s BIG break. From his own personal accounts, Peter’s attitude came off as ‘all or nothing’. Unlike other rock bands he participated in like Yes or Flash, Empire as a whole had no one to answer to but Peter. With authority came responsibility. At times the money was there, and at others, it wasn’t. Unfortunately, in the business world in which music, like it or not, is a BIG player, deals fall through. Peter’s actions dictated the man certainly tried, doing all he could to make Empire not only the band he wanted, but a success as well. A hard working / well rehearsed musical group that made chart topping albums, and went out on tour. A band that actually played live gigs in front of paying crowds. None of that ever happened to Empire. I conclude what a major shame that was, because the material when presented in the right environment was there. I base this on the three (Mark I, II, and III) now Out of Print (OOP) Empire factory pressed from the now-defunct One Way Records CDs that I have. All these years later since their release is further testimony to a conclusion, with the double CD; Peter Banks Empire – The Mars Tapes.

Let’s talk content. The two CD’s that make up Peter Banks Empire – The Mars Tapes amount to around ninety minutes of unreleased music from what would be the third major, and I guess final line-up of the group. Rehearsal tapes recorded at Mars Studios in Los Angeles, California. Music that represents not only the three past failed studio recordings, but Peter as its star as well. He was the music guy, and his once wife and Empire’s lead singer, Sydney Foxx (nowadays Sidonie Jordan) had the task of doing lyrics. Having been in all three incarnations of Empire, it was her band as well as it was Banks. The truth was it was her lyrics and singing that provided the cohesiveness the band needed. Since her Empire days, Sidonie has seen a variety of success, as did the bands’ drummer, Mark Murdock. He’s currently rocking Tokyo, Japan, with a group called Machine Messiah in which material like that found on this CD, could be heard/seen in concert. Mark also is very involved with a very cool progressive/jazz-rock band called, Cymbalic Encounters. Their sophomore studio release will be out here shortly. Includes Percy Jones and John Goodsall from a band Phil Collins was in at one time called; Brand X. As for the others involved with Empire, we are after all talking a few decades ago; R.I.P.

Did I just speak his name? One of the best drummers in prog-rock history, Mr. Phil Collins is included in Empire’s history, being a session man in the band’s beginning days. Friends of Peter’s, it was another band he was in called Genesis that kept him from perhaps being Empire’s full-time drummer. As an admitted fan of Empire, be it whatever line-up, featuring Peter Banks, I just think it’s so cool he contributes. Makes for an excellent footnote. A man behind the drum kit that I would have loved to have at least once witnessed in person, seeing him play live. With everything else I witnessed over the decades, it’s hard to believe I missed something like that. A lifelong friend with Empire’s final drummer, Mark Murdock also. Phil rocks! Good singer/showman also. Oh…on The Mars Tapes, Mr. Collins appears on disc two. On a song called ‘Sky At Night’. A beautifully layered prog-rock song if there ever was one. Sydney / Sidonie’s vocals shine here, and I dig the tabla playing (by Sam Gobal). Another one with hit potential, and I bet would have been cool to see them do in concert. Give the prog rock band Renaissance a run for their money.

Uncle G Rating: Using the one to five-star rating system with one star pretty much meaning, “pass”, to five stars meaning it’s cool to spend your hard earned cash on, I rate Peter Banks Empire – The Mars Tapes – 5 Stars! From the concept, which would include an awesome representation via the artwork that accompanies this release, by Paul at Studio 3 (as listed in the CD’s credits). Makes for slick looking promo ads as well. A GREAT idea using an obvious Sci-Fi twist based on the name of the studio. Nice work! Progressive rock and Outer Space do go together nicely.

Speaking of Mars, a couple instrumentals found on the second disc of The Mars Tapes by Peter Banks Empire, captures the spirit of the project. The first being a tune called ‘Ascending To The Planet Mars’. Songwriting credits go to Peter and the whole band. And also containing the same spirit is a song called ‘The Fall Of The Empire’, which gets my attention every time played. Always trying to be honest, I LIKE the second disc of Peter Banks Empire – The Mars Tapes more than the first. Different listeners, different reactions. Remember, I’m more into the actual music itself. It’s Peter’s guitar playing that holds my focus. All other players were outstanding, and having to be so to keep up with Peter in the first place.

Note: Please understand what an archival project is before paying all that money for postage. You know, should one be buying the physical CD itself. Available for official download also. The recordings themselves reflect recording devices and techniques reflective of the time the music was recorded. Just pointing out the obvious. Saying that, sounds very well being blasted out of a powerful home stereo system. Comparable or better to that of the One Way Record releases. On the negative side, a couple songs could have had better endings, and not sound so like they abruptly stop. Maybe could have faded out sooner? Maybe due to glitches in the source tapes themselves? A wild guess really. I once was involved with a Billion Dollar Babies three-disc CD archival project called, Complete Battle Axe (2002). Learned many valuable lessons, helping Michael Bruce with that one. Another story for another day. Back to the way a couple songs ended, it’s really the only bad thing I got to say about the whole project. Having worked on an archival project before, was taking an above novice educated guess as to why.

Before this turns into a two-parter, I sign out forever a fan of Peter Banks music. His sound will outlive us all. The possibility of a human being on the planet Mars listening to music Peter was involved with, or better yet, this very recording, will increase as time goes by. In the vast far reaches of outer space…may the vibes proceed the jive. Isn’t that Seventies sounding?

Downes Braide Association – Skyscraper Souls

As Seen On Classic Rock Radio (UK)

Uncle G’s FUN Music Reviews

Spotlight: Downes Braide Association (DBA 3) – Skyscraper Souls (2017)

Label: Cherry Red Records

By: Gary “Uncle G” Brown

Twitter: GBrown0816

Downes_Braide - DBA 3 - cover

On first listen, I wasn’t immediately drawn in. Neither was a good friend of mine. My advice to him was to not forget our ‘play twice rule’. It was agreed upon over twenty fives ago between the two of us that if we listened to something twice and hated it … that we would move onto the next musical offering. My buddy, KDiddy, a brother from another mother, always seemed to have a bigger musical palette then I did. Our taste in music is similar but at the same time, different. For over a quarter century now, we have been turning each other on to each other’s music collection. Between us both, we could seriously set a playlist for a 24/7 radio station. Would be second to the best classic rock station already on the PLANET; Classic Rock Radio (UK).

So it ends up when playing DBA 3, that I got past the ‘play twice rule’ easily. Every listen thereafter helping me conclude that this newest studio release from Geoffrey Downes/Christopher Braide … exceeds anything I would ever hope for in a modern-day progressive rock album. Not that I completely gave up hope on such a thing. 

Uncle G’s … Past First Impression(s)

A well engineered/mixed recording. Perfect length. Piano/Keyboard heavy. An abundance of lyrics. Keys and vocals unite! Stand out backing musicians. Beautiful artwork by Roger Dean. Am jumping around … I conclude DBA 3 Skyscraper Souls; “ a work of genius!” I’ll explain.

Was shocked when the CD started. Vocals at the very beginning. The more you listen, the more the eardrums respond. The brain awakens. Something exciting is about to happen. And it does! Track one entitled ‘Prelude’ will also help give this nine-track album, a very nice outro. Lead vocals by Christopher Braide. I was told by the sweetest lady here in Fort Collins that Chris’ singing really stood out. That he had a nice tone. She’s a musician herself. Peer to peer evaluation. I will tell folks that Chris’ vocals are pleasant to these ears. So many kings of keyboards worked with singers whose performances make a person want to spew. I actually own a lot of Geoff’s music catalog. The man has done better than most celebrated piano/keys players regarding vocalists; Asia – RIP John Wetton.

It’s track two, the title track, Skyscraper Souls, that is totally mind blowing. Clocks in at around 18 minutes. Totally seamless. And this is where the word ‘masterpiece’ comes in. Accompanied by complimenting backing vocalist. Intelligent lyrics akin to the kind of poetry one reads under a tree, escaping the everyday pressures of being an adult. Amazes me each and every time I give it a spin. All nine songs contain lyrics worthy of paying attention to. Adult musings/observations. I try to sing along, but when I do the dogs in the hood gather, and then start vocalizing loudly in my general direction. Widdled it down to it now being a sing-along, or a request from the entire pack to get me to stop.

CO - Fort Collins_Evergreen - Vanna - 01 (2017 07 01)

Vanna (photo by “Uncle G”)

Typically when playing music, I listen to an album, from start to finish. No skipping around like it’s a greatest hits offering. I recommend those interested, to do the same … DBA 3 Skyscraper Souls. Rewards are plentiful. A wonderful array of professional musicians are included to help complete the nine compositions. Three core players: Ash Soan (drums_percussion), Andy Hodge (bass), and Dave Colquhoun (lead guitar). Andy Partridge (multi-instrumentalist_singer) is on four tracks. Various talented background singers; Matthew Koma_Tim Bowness. Guitarist Patrick Howley guests on; Angel On My Shoulder. Throw in the flute (David Longdon), a trumpet (Matt  Bourne Jones) and a cool guy doing narrative: Barney Ashton Bullock. All tracks are written and produced by; Geoffrey Downes and Christopher Braide. For myself … what’s not to like? Awashed with reminders of the 1980’s; The Police, Toto, and a group called; The Buggles. Remember them? Not a hard rock offering by any means. There are upbeats moments where you can wiggle your bum while under the DBA 3 influence.

Gary “Uncle G” Brown RATES … Geoffrey Downes – Christopher Braide: Skyscraper Souls (2017)

Using a one to five-star rating system whereas one star would mean it’s not even worth a free download, to five stars … the best of the best. “Uncle G” gives DBA 3 – Skyscraper Souls … 5 STARS! I played this on hundred dollar headphones … wow! Could only imagine what DBA 3 would sound like on … two hundred dollar headphones! Maybe one day the opportunity will present itself?

Helpful Websites

Official Roger Dean Website:

Steve Hunter: The Manhattan Blues Project


As Seen On
First Published: 17 June 2013
Uncle G’s FUN Music Reviews
Spotlight: Steve Hunter – The Manhattan Blues Project (2013 Deacon Records)
By: Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBrown0816

Steve Hunter - The Manhattan Blues Project - CD Wrap

The first Kickstarter program I pledged money. A new Steve Hunter solo project. It’s a story I’ll tell the rest of my life. And with wonderful results for its funded, meaning the artist succeeded in reaching the goal set, and now the CD is a reality. A guitarist rock fans have been listening to since the golden 1970’s. A man who helped make popular such names in music as Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, and Alice Cooper. A professional musician in every meaning of the word. Displays superior guitar skills with each and every song he participates on. One of Steve’s latest successes being the lead guitarist on Alice Cooper’s Nightmare 2 album. Then being ever so respectful, standing in for the deceased Glen Buxton when the Cooper’s were inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

Mr. Hunter, a sometimes independent artist, met his financial goal to put out this CD through a website I just previously mentioned, Kickstarter Dot Com. To all others thinking of getting a project funded, a lesson in how it’s done. Came to my house autographed with a signature that can actually be read. Packaging design is done very nicely. Good photos of Steve and I like the darker colors used in the cover wrap. Via Kickstarter and Steve’s official Facebook page, his wife Karen communicates with folks keeping everyone abreast as to everyday occurrences. The whole experience made it a pleasure to participate. The Hunters both come across online as very pleasant, and ever so professional. I personally could not be any happier to be a pledge participant. My first time backing an idea proposed on Kickstarter, and then it met and or exceeded its goal. I have witnessed proposed projects crash and burn. Will continue to keep open minded to participating again.

Steve Hunter has already participated on unique concept albums held in high esteem by fans and critics alike. And like all other past projects, The Manhattan Blues Project is consistent on the entertainment meter. Deeper than just the hit songs he participated on. The listener gets a more personal understanding of the man behind the guitar.

The topic of this CD is, of course, Manhattan. It is the smallest of the five boroughs that make up New York City. Madison Square Garden is located there. Having hung out in Manhattan (considered a county of New York State) as a teenager, I can tell you first hand that it’s an encyclopedia when it comes to music. Different bars/clubs all having different sounds. Big acts like The Rolling Stones used Manhattan / New York City as a backdrop for many of their songs. My introduction to rap was heard walking the streets of Manhattan. Young black guys on the street corners using rhythms to sell their drugs. I’d shake my head no and smile. Already had all the drugs I needed.

Each song on The Manhattan Blues Project is as unique as the location it’s named after. The CD starts off with typical outside street sounds. A nice instrumental mood piece that leads in wonderfully to one of the most bad ass songs I’ve heard in ages called; “222 w.23rd”. Do justice here and listen to this with a good pair of headphones. The song got a prominent lovemaking vibe. Music you imagine hearing in an erectile dysfunction TV commercial when the pill takes effect and it’s time to get busy. Maybe I’m the only one hearing this? And I’m not saying in any way, anything bad. The song inspires shagging. Has a definite sexiness to it. Includes interesting background noises, a vocal rap by Tommy Henriksen, some slide by Michael Lee Firkins, and Hunter’s wife Karen acing the background vocals. For Steve, Uncle G predicts a new greatest hit. Guaranteed repeat plays. It’s that good. And then draw a tub for you and a special friend. Let the music take you both away (wink wink).

At times throughout The Manhattan Blues Project, Mr. Hunter has some rather exceptional friends join in. One of my favorite bass players, Mr. Tony Levin appears on a couple of songs. One is a re-imagining of a Peter Gabriel hit song called “Solsbury Hill”. Ninety-eight percent is an instrumental with uncredited male background voices heard in somewhat harmony. Overall the guys did the classic rock song justice. An enjoyable track.

“The Brooklyn Shuffle” totally shines. A traditional blues sounding song with some outstanding guitar work by Steve and two other gentlemen: Johnny Depp and Joe Perry. Both offering meaty solos. Karen again outdoes herself on background vocals. Be fun to see this played in concert.

“Ground Zero” is a haunting, yet beautiful piece. Evokes emotion when listening to it. So many terrific days in Manhattan’s history and then you have that very dark one. Not a totally depressing tune, Hunter captures the right vibe. Each note and chord played, backed with feeling. A positive sign of a good blues guitarist.

“Twilight In Harlem” has this funky groove to it. Joining Steve on guitar duty are Joe Satriani and Marty Friedman. The song has a real band sound. Helping to make this so, on keyboards is Phil Aaberg, and on drums, Todd Chuba.

“Sunset In Central Park” is the last song on the CD. On bass again is Tony Levin and on cellos is 2Cellos. All the ingredients needed to close the CD on a fine note. Nice outro !!

Rating: A friend asked if I could be non-bias. Knew I have been a long time fan. An old Alice Cooper associate that Steve also knows would say assessing yours truly that I’m loyal and honest like a boy scout. To me that’s flattering. Using the one to five-star rating system I give Steve Hunter – The Manhattan Blues Project: 5 very solid stars. Well done Mr. Hunter. Well done indeed.

Steve Hunter – 222 W 23rd

Uncle G’s Helpful Weblinks

Official Steve Hunter Website: 

Official Steve Hunter Twitter Page: @stevehunterguit 

Uncle G’s FUN Music Reviews: Dick – Dangerous Dreams Music Review

Spotlight: Dick – Dangerous Dreams (2017)

By: Gary “Uncle G” Brown

Twitter @GBrown0816

Dick - Dangerous Dreams (1400 x 1400 RBG)

You know, the one thing Jon Kirkman requested from me on the day I became a correspondent for Classic Rock Radio (UK), was not to post prog-rock stories all the time. A friendly reminder that the station has a huge rock n’ roll playlist, consisting of every form of rock music imaginable from the 1960’s and on. Thousands of musicians and bands under the classic rock umbrella, in which to do stories on. And that I did.

Over the past five years via Classic Rock Radio’s main website, and or its social media pages, I mentioned a ton of different people and products associated with them. Nowadays focusing on either interviews or straight up music/movie reviews. And then anything under the  ‘pop culture’ roof, should I get a bug up my bum and feel compelled to express my opinion about whatever it is.

Pertaining to music, Classic Rock Radio (UK) has given me the opportunity to do pieces on acts I’ve known for decades, or be it something new to these now maturing ears. And remember, it has been said that in general, people over age fifty do indeed if able, become more adventurous. That for me is where ‘Dick’ comes in.

A multi-instrumentalist, songwriter gentleman by the name of Jaakko Soimakallio recording under the name, Dick, somewhere in Finland, contacted me through my archival website asking if I’d be interested in hearing his new album. I get these requests several times, every day. No exaggeration. Not all from Finland, of course. The website is still fairly new. One can add also as contacts, Twitter or my own personal Facebook page. No guarantee. Only so much time in a day. Yet I appreciate the requests because the fact of the matter is, I need topics to write about. One doesn’t need to be established, to create something worth the time for others like myself to check out. Saying that … no country or opera music, okay?

Comparing myself to other entertainment journalists out there, I know there are some that listen twice to something, and then type a thousand words on it, declaring to the whole WORLD, their yay or nay vote. Works for them … I just don’t do shit that way. MAIN reason. Knowing and understanding myself, my own first impression can be and is WRONG on many occasions. My mind needs to absorb and sometimes even understand all the sounds that made up the beats and tones, that make up the full project. I write (type really), expressing my viewpoint, when I feel it’s the proper time to do so, and not a minute sooner. Include editing, and you’re typically looking at a few weeks or longer.

I told Jaakko yes, by the way. Snail mail from Finland. The dude sent me two CDs, autographing one.

Note: The CD artwork by Niina Helimaa is extremely well done. Niina did a wonderful job on the wrap and booklet, capturing the overall feel of the music found within.

“Uncle G” discusses … Dick – Dangerous Dreams (2017)

A death of a friend, one of the first ones I made here in Fort Collins occurred right after I gave this CD, the first couple spins. The human condition. We all at one time or another experience situations that we’d rather not. Then a health issue for myself popped up. Nothing modern medicine can’t (hopefully) take care of. Taking some time off my writing, I did go back to Dick – Dangerous Dreams. Seven tracks total with one being an instrumental. Is certainly put together like a prog-rock album. The influences should one hear them, can range from random 1970’s/1980’s FM radio sounds to a classic rock group like Steely Dan. And I say that due to the album (Dick – Dangerous Dreams) having a tad of rock-jazziness to it. Blend in some Gabriel era Genesis. I can see old school art rock fans getting into this, as much as I do the Millennials.

Oh … lovely instrumental; Winter Ghost. Well done! Repeat plays for sure!

“Uncle G” rates … Dick – Dangerous Dreams (2017)

Using a five-star rating system, whereas one star basically means it SUCKS THROUGH A LONG  STRAW to five stars in which would mean I seriously think it’s worth your time and money checking out, Uncle G rates Dick – Dangerous Dreams (insert a Jaakko Soimakallio drum roll) … 5 STARS! In a nutshell, Dick – Dangerous Dreams has become a soundtrack to my Summer of 2017. Strong writing! Original and modern Progressive Rock that sounds GREAT on a decent set of headphones.

FYI: Since I mentioned headphones, for decades now (since the 1970’s) yours truly has been using; Sennheiser. Top notch products! I always get my money’s worth, plus!

I’ll close by again saying what some might find shocking: “I really LIKE Dick!” And again, THANKS to Jaakko for playing on a hunch. Sorry, I took so long in regards to producing at least a few words on your CD. Keep making music my new friend, and I’ll keep listening. and please pass on congrats to ALL involved in putting out such a solid album. Am looking forward to seeing where things go musically from here. DICK & Finland (country of origin) ROCKS!


Dick – Dangerous Dreams (Bandcamp Dot Com)

Dick (Official Website)

Gary “Uncle G” Brown Archival Website

Trevor Rabin – Jacaranda

As Seen On
First Published: 28 July 2012
Spotlight: Trevor Rabin – Jacaranda
Music Review by Classic Rock Radio (UK) American Correspondent Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBrown0816


Trevor Rabin - Jacaranda - cover

Then: I, like many other YesFans became aware of Trevor Rabin back when the hit album 90125 came out. Read the name in the credits. When the tour came I checked it out. Yes was now a band with a new focus. They had a hit song with Owner Of A Lonely Heart, and the album was making the charts. All seemly guided by a very competent new guitarist. Not only did he play guitar, but other instruments as well. An all around multi-instrumentalist. Add to that, songwriter. He says ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’ came to him while sitting on the toilet. Plus he sings. All this he does very well. A talented musician and performer.

Trevor stayed with Yes, appearing on three other studio releases; Big Generator, Union, and Talk. At the end of the Talk tour, Mr. Rabin resigned from the band to focus on becoming a movie score composer. I always personally loved the medium myself. I grew up admiring the composing skills of John Williams. Another 20th century Beethoven. His scores equated to some of the best classic pieces even written. Typically performed with a symphony.

Not to be confused with songs that appear in movies. A song in a movie would, later on, appear on the film’s soundtrack. Keep in mind, a soundtrack is not a score. A score is typically original music composed and performed just for the film. Could also include dialogue or sound effects from the movie. Think Vangelis – Blade Runner.

When you think of the film Jaws (original score by John Williams), the music you hear in your head is likely to be the main theme which was composed by Williams. The music was meant to envision a shark attack. A short and very effective instrumental.

An example of a song in a movie that would appear on a follow-up soundtrack could be; Aerosmith’s – I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing. Was in the 1998 disaster film; Armageddon. Was a big hit for the band. Appeared in the actual movie during some mushy love scene.

The score or the original instrumental music heard in the background of the film Armageddon, was composed by Trevor Rabin. His first real BIG hit in films. So being a fan of both Aerosmith and Rabin’s, I ended up purchasing both the soundtrack and the score from the film.

After a while, the scores were becoming hard to find or were too highly priced to keep up getting them all. I do have a small collection anyway of his film work.

Here’s a sample of titles that Trevor did the music for:

The Glimmer Man (1996)
Con Air (1997) …with Mark Mancina…before that Trevor also helped Mark with his score to the film, Twister (1996).
Armageddon (1998)
Jack Frost (1998) …does a cameo as Trevor, The Jack Frost Band Lead Guitarist.
Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Gone In 60 Seconds (2000)
Remember The Titans (2000)
The 6th Day (2000)…does commentary on the DVD
Rock Star (2001)
Exorcist: The Beginning (2004)
National Treasure (2004)
Flyboys (2006)
Snakes On A Plane (2006)
National Treasure: Book Of Secrets (2007)
Get Smart (2008)
I Am Number 4 (2011)

Add to this, his guest appearances over the years; Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Manfred Mann, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Seal, Paul Rodgers, Rick Wakeman, and Roger Hodgson just to name a few. And by the way, all this is NOT everything Trevor has ever done. The information I listed, just an attempt to answer the question as to who Trevor Rabin is. People ask me this. So there, in a nutshell, is my answer. Trevor has an official website. Additional information can be found there. I recommend bookmarking/keeping up. A player in the world of classic rock. Someone whose CD’s I automatically purchase based on past performances. My opinion is he helped resurrect the band Yes. Without his help, the relaunch of the group would have never happened, or been anywhere as successful. Worked out well for both. Yes needed the new blood, and Rabin needed a place he could shine.

Now: In May of this year, Trevor released what would be his fifth solo record; Jacaranda. To compare it to previous solo efforts would not be fair. Trevor’s matured as a musician. Not so he’s boring anyone to death. He’s been at this game for a few decades now. The man’s progressed. Kind of funny since he’s made a name for himself doing progressive pop type songs. Where some of our greats remain the same, Trevor’s taken his playing, and composing to a whole other level. In my past columns, I made mention of Twenty Century Beethoven’s. Twenty First Century now. Here’s old school showing itself. Musicians whom I would consider among the ranks of the great classical composers of yesterday. Two Hundred years from now I bet a symphony orchestra on another planet performs the music of this man.

Jacaranda: An almost all instrumental that covers a wide range of different musical styles. Worth every penny I paid for it. When’s the last time you could say that about a CD you purchased?

I knew I’d be writing this review on here. It’s impossible to comment about anything intelligently unless you know at least a little something about the subject matter. So I listened to this CD at least twenty times within the past few days. In the process, I have gotten to know it really well. I love instrumentals. I like when things are changed up some. Which could explain my getting into progressive rock as much as I do. I wrote a few notes alongside song titles. So to cut the suspense, I’ll tell you ahead of time I like Rabin’s Jacaranda very much. Here’s some of why.

Spider Boogie — Quick picking fun jam.
Market Street — Final Eyes 2. At times a similar tone or rhythm that reminded me of.
Anerley Road — Old style start — dream like jazz style — a solid song.
Through The Tunnel: Ball’s to the wall moments.
The Branch Office — nice melody.
Rescue: Very Mike Oldfield like. In a way too beautiful for words.
Killanney 1 & 2 — Piano playing that rivals Vangelis or Wakeman.
Storks Bill Geranium Waltz — like a song heard and applauded 300 years ago.
Me And My Boy — it’s a rocker !! Multi-layered & very cool.
Freethought — feelin’ happy.
Zoo Lake — lazy feeling in an old fashion kind of way.
Gazania — Happy ending.

Trevor plays almost just about everything you hear on this CD. It’s simply incredible. He’s a magnificent player in every sense of the word. Classic rock fans take note. Two current players accompanying Jeff Beck lately are found on here; Vinnie Colaiuta, and Tal Wilkenfeld. Trevor in the liner notes, remarks how happy he was with their appearance on here. Good job producing. They can be heard and enjoyed.

If the song titles sound or read a little strange, it’s due to this CD being autobiographical. In the liner notes on each song, Trevor makes comments with a lot of them being stories of his growing up in Johannesburg, South Africa. Uncle G’s favorite one is from a song called; Zoo Lake. It reads in part: When I was around 17, we use to go out on a rowing for 20 cents an hour and smoke some pot. Hard place to be stopped in the middle of the lake”.

For the classic rocker whose looking to branch out some. For everyone else who likes good music. Hopefully, it won’t be so long between solos for us to get the next one. A fantasy concert would be Trevor doing music from Yes and his films. I’d like to see that, and maybe for one night Trevor conducting the Boston Pops Orchestras. I love to hear them do Endless Dream.

Uncle G’s CD Rating: From one to five stars…Trevor Rabin’s Jacaranda: 5 stars !!

Official Trevor Rabin Website