Steve Hunter: The Manhattan Blues Project

 

As Seen On ClassicRockRadio.co.uk
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: www.stevehunter.com 

Official Steve Hunter Twitter Page: @stevehunterguit 

DVD Review: Rick Wakeman – The Six Wives Of Henry VIII: Live (2009)

As Seen On: ClassicRockRadio.co.uk
First Published: 17 June 2015
Uncle G’s Classic Rock DVD Collection
Spotlight: Rick Wakeman – The Six Wives Of Henry VIII:Live at Hampton Court Palace (2009 Eagle Vision)
By: Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBrown0816

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There is a chain of retail stores in Houston, Texas, named Half Price Books, that buys and sells new and used; books, albums, CDs, cassettes, I think I saw an eight track tape there one day not long ago, VHS tapes, movies on a disc the size of albums, Blue-rays, and DVDs. They also have collectibles. Pre-printed metal signs, key chains, computer games, and whatever other items one could think that would tie in with everything else I just mentioned. A very cool store I try to check out every so often.

On my last trip there, I picked up a couple DVD concert discs. Brand new, and offered at a price lower than what it was when it was a brand new item. Ones a Aerosmith concert from 2013 in Japan, and the other DVD I have chosen, a Rick Wakeman spectacle, professionally recorded in 2009 entitled; Rick Wakeman – The Six Wives Of Henry VIII: Live at Hampton Court Palace. Put out by Eagle Vision. Known for putting out quality concert DVDs / Blu-rays. Again they have outdone themselves. The Wakeman DVD comes with special features, and a nice booklet, giving detailed information about the special performance, and the subjects in which the music glorifies.

Rick Wakeman’s 1973 album Six Wives Of Henry VIII was the second Rick Wakeman album in the first album collection I had. Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (1974) was the first. Then Myths and Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table (1975) my third. Purchased that the first week it came out. I have since that time, purchased various versions of these three classic Rick Wakeman offerings. If an youngin’ wants to know why Rick Wakeman is as famous as he is today, point them to any of those three albums. Or any that came after, which dig into various styles of piano / keyboard playing. I have my favorites; Rick Wakeman’s Criminal Record (1977), and Rock N’ Roll Prophet Plus (1993).

Rick’s Six Wives project was extra special to me for various reasons. For one it was a rock instrumental. My Mom, (God rest her soul) being a professional musician and seriously into Herb Alpert back in the 1960’s, introduced me to music without words. A preference today. Songs containing longer than usual passages of time in between lyrics, in my mind is a plus the majority of the time. The band Yes excelled at this, as did many one of their contemporaries such as Pink Floyd, and Genesis, just to name a couple.

My introduction to Rick’s keyboard was the group, Yes. Another reason why the album Six Wives fits my taste, is because various Yes members appear on it. Early nineteen seventies. The Fragile / Close To The Edge / Tales line-ups. All but Jon Anderson, which includes Yes’ two drummers at the time, Bill Bruford and his replacement, Alan White. Some of my all time favorite musicians on the planet. Them being on this album just makes it even better in my book.

This live version recorded over two nights, the first and second of May, in the year 2009, according to the keyboard wizard himself, is Henry and the Six Wives of Henry The VIII, as it was meant to be performed / presented. Long story short, way back when, their were recording limitations. Now the whole piece could be appreciated in it’s entirety, as it was meant to be heard. And as the spectacle as it should be. Besides Mr. Wakeman, a very large number of professional musicians, a robust narrator, and a backdrop worthy of all the work involved to make the show go without a hitch. Again, performed two nights in a row, involving hundreds of people. The DVD I imagine the best of each song performed. So many good moments. Cool bonus features. A DVD worth purchasing, as I assume the CD is as well, in which I need to start seeking out. The additional music flows as freely as the original. If a fan of Mr. Wakeman’s, then this historical 2009 Rick Wakeman concert DVD is a MUST HAVE.

DVD Song Track Listing / Running Order

01. Tudorture/Henry’s Fanfare
02. Tudorture/1485
03. Catherine Of Aragon (2009)
04. Kathryn Howard (2009)
05. Jane’s Prelude
06. Jane Seymour (2009)
07. Defender Of The Faith
08. Katherine Parr (2009)
09. Anne Of Cleves (2009)
10. Anne Boleyn (2009)
11. Tudorock
12. Tudorture (Reprise)

Running Time: 125 approx.

 photo Rick Wakeman - 6 Wives Live - DVD Back Cover_zpswopohvnd.jpg

Rick Wakeman Official Website: http://www.rwcc.com/

Music Review: Leon Alvarado – The Future Left Behind (2016)

As Seen On: ClassicRockRadio.co.uk
24 July 2016
Music Review: Leon Alvarado – The Future Left Behind (2016)
By: Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBrown0816

Am pretty sure my admiration for progressive rock concept albums started back when I began seriously getting into collecting record albums.

As a kid in my single digits, and entering my teens, I had 45’s (singles) of whatever bubble gum / novelty songs that caught my ear. At around age twelve, from hanging out with my school friends, and sometimes their older siblings, I became exposed to more of what they were playing on the FM radio stations, then the AM ones. Bottom line, rock n’ roll was my thing. I’m drawn to music having a catchy melody, and many times over, with a solid beat.

My first real rock album; The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band (1967). Then came bands like Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, and Yes. Time wise for myself being the first half of the nineteen seventies. Records albums around then cost on the average of five dollars. Double albums more. To help keep in perspective, the minimum wage was under three dollars an hour.

My parents were both dead by my 12th birthday. I was thrown into foster care. No one gave me money. Having no real skills, I did what I could do to make a buck, so I could buy the things I wanted. This would include selling weed. A typical joint would go for a dollar. Rolling twenty in the morning, I’d have them gone by the evening. Doing that, and working full time as a dishwasher at age 16, I managed to keep myself in cigarettes, and I always had a pretty cool record collection. Saw a lot of concerts too. Even with not being able to play an instrument, music was definitely my thing.

An LP record as it was back then, and still is today, was typically a collection of songs. Whereas a single would play out, side A and side B at say ten minutes, an 33 RPM album would clock in playing both sides, at around two thirds of an hour. When playing LP’s, I got into the habit of listening to the whole release, and wasn’t into skipping around the record, only listening to the hits. Occasionally a song I labeled a stinker would be included in the mix, but I try not to focus on that too much, and just hang in there till the next track. This is where CD’s were cool. One could program the player to not play a song(s) one disliked. No more having to walk over to the turntable, and moving the needle, if a song didn’t interest you. I enjoyed the advancement in technology, but frankly it didn’t really matter much to me. All that time I had trained myself to persevere, when I heard a tune I wasn’t into. That and maybe I was too lazy to bother trying to learn how to program the newest advancements in playing music. Easier to put in the disc, press play, and let it go till it was over. I’m a CD guy nowadays. Vinyl to me, was always a pain in the ass. My CD count is in the thousands. And if a disc has more music on it that I don’t like, more than I do, I simply just don’t play it anymore.

One type record which was designed to be played from start to finish, and not skipped all around, was the concept album. This is where the lyrics were all about one idea. Like Yes’ Tales From Topographic Oceans (1973). Some even told a story, such as Nektar‘s Remember The Future (1973), or Spock’s Beard – Snow (2002). Many bands / musicians saw success doing this while others were mocked / laughed at; Styx – Kilroy Was Here (1983). My best loved concept albums were by keyboardist, Rick Wakeman. His ‘Six Wives of Henry VIII’ (1973),’Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ (1974), and ‘The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table’ (1975), was one solid piece of work, after another. The subjects of each release intrigued me. I got into how the stories were presented, and of course I dug the music. Another one I could not play enough times by Rick was his 1977 release, Criminal Record. Yes’ Chris Squire (RIP), and Alan White both contributed to this record. The album contained three thirds of what was then Yes. Squire and White was one of the absolute best bass / drum teams in all rock n’ roll music. They played together in and out of Yes for over forty years. These guys were amazing!

Uncle G Discusses … Leon Alvarado – The Future Left Behind

 photo Leon Alvarado - The Future Left Behind - cover unopened_zpse8r7oro6.jpg

First off, I became aware of Leon Alvarado a couple years ago. Was sent an EP CD he put out called, ‘Music From An Expanded Universe’, for possible review. I ended up doing so praising it not only for its musical contents, but it’s cover art as well. A year and a half later (give or take) I get another package in the mail with Leon’s newest release. A forty one minute full length concept album entitled, ‘The Future Left Behind.’ Includes guest players Billy Sherwood (Yes – Circa:) on guitar, and a legendary musician I already mentioned; Rick Wakeman. He’s credited with a Moog solo on the second track (Launch Overture), and extra keyboards. Seeing how Leon plays keyboards himself, it’s figuring out, and then knowing the different styles of the two men to guess who’s playing where. The majority of the keyboard work is Leon. That much I know. Leon also takes care of the drum work. On top of that, the sci-fi story is by him, and he writes all the all the songs on ‘The Future Left Behind’ except for one where he shares songwriting credit. That would be with guitarist Johnny Bruhns (Circa:) on a number called; To Be Loved. An outstanding acoustic guitar number performed by Johnny, who appears on that one track.

What I labeled a sci-fi story, takes place in the 22nd century, if my calculations are correct. The Earth as we know it, has gone to shit. Blamed on pollution, and overpopulation. The wealthy get to live life anew, being blasted off into outer space, and living in one of the many huge space cities, that orbit our planet, and also that of Mars. A work in progress for those there, and also for the poor people left behind. For they need to come up with a solution to the planet’s problems, or die trying. We learn all this through a narrator. No singing, thus not through lyrics. Instead in between instrumental tracks, we hear the story unfold before us. A brilliant job done by Steve Thamer, who at first listen I thought was Michael Dorn (portrayed Worf on Star Trek: The Next Generation). Oops … my bad.

Music wise I have my favorite tracks. One would be ‘Launch Overtune’ that I also stated included the Moog playing of Mr. Rick Wakeman. Another song on here, ‘The Ones Left Behind’ reminds me of Rick, and his backup band; The English Rock Ensemble. And I really dig the last track; The Star Seekers.

Uncle G Rates … Leon Alvarado – The Future Left Behind

Using the one to five star rating system in which one star means it’s absolutely dreadful, to five stars which means it’s safe to spend your hard earned disposable cash on it, I rate Leon Alvarado – The Future Left Behind … 5 Stars! I wish in places it rocked out a tad harder. Genuinely, music wise, I find it hard to complain. Also, I can’t say enough good words about the story. A solid futuristic, apocalyptic tale that inspires intelligent thought.

In closing, I strongly recommend to the consumer to shell out the extra money and get the physical CD. The total packaging really compliments what you hear. The artwork / photography stands out. Comes with a very well done booklet, that includes the story in written form, plus comic book illustrations. I can’t say enough good things here. Leon Alvarado – The Future Left Behind, is really, really well done! Okay to buy the download as well. The rest so they say, is icing on the cake.

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For more information: http://www.leonplaysmusic.com