Rick Wakeman spent much of the '80s and '90s recording instrumental albums that veered toward either classical or ambient, so 2003's Out There comes as a bit of a shock: it's an honest to goodness revival of the full-throttle prog rock Wakeman pursued on his solo albums in the '70s. A large part of this is due to his decision to form a full-fledged supporting rock band. Called the New English Rock Ensemble, they're a quintet led by Wakeman and featuring Damian Wilson on vocals, Ant Glynne on guitar, Lee Pomeroy on bass, and Tony Fernandez on drums and percussion. They're a powerful and skilled outfit, able to follow Wakeman's shifting tempos and moods with dexterity without ever losing sight of their forceful rhythmic core, which keeps this rock, not new age. Wilson is a similarly versatile vocalist, as convincing on the surging "Out There" as he is on the contemplative "To Be with You."
Following two majorly successful albums as a dance queen all over the world, the alto pop diva extraordinaire Anastacia released her third album, a self-titled one, to huge reception practically all over the globe. Interestingly enough, the only location where the album was never released was in the United States, where the American singer's flame never burst into wildfire. It's a real shame, though; Anastacia was a transition album for a multi-dimensional artist as she shifted from disco flavor into passionate power pop, and this haunting presentation would've been her ticket for gold in the States…
Benefit was reissued in a remastered edition with bonus tracks at the end of 2001, which greatly improved the clarity of the playing and the richness of the sound; the four additional tracks are "Singing All Day," "Witch's Promise," the elegant, gossamer-textured "Just Trying to Be," and the original U.K. mix of "Teacher." Written and recorded prior to Benefit, they're all lighter in mood than the material from the original album, adding some greater variety but fitting in perfectly on a stylistic level.
The unexpected return of the masters of the Grateful Dead's triumphant show at the Albuquerque Civic Auditorium, November 17, 1971, yields great rewards. The Dead came in HOT for their first New Mexico show. Aided by clarity and precision and abetted by confidence and focus, they finessed old standards with definitive takes. With Keith now blending in seamlessly on keys, the first set offered up a triple shot of electric Blues, an exceptional "You Win Again," and a stellar "One More Saturday Night" to wrap things up. And the second set, well, it might just be unlike any you've ever heard.
TOR LUNDVALLS NOTES: In September 2012, I received an e-mail from someone named John B. who said he had assembled a lengthy remix of my music, which also incorporated some of his own material. John asked if Id mind if he posted this recording on YouTube, to which I agreed. He also mentioned that there was a second part to his mix that was roughed out, but never completed. I was curious to hear both parts, so shortly afterwards, John mailed me two CDrs which I enjoyed very much. The recordings were hypnotic and haunting, evoking images of vast fields at twilight. I was especially fond of the second disc which had a darker atmosphere and featured more of Johns original material, beginning with ghostly clock chimes and ending with a mysterious piece using dried seed pods and other cryptic sounds that slowly built-up into an intense, almost claustrophobic environment.