Remembering Walter Becker: 1950-2017

On September 3rd 2017, it was announced that the legendary Walter Becker had passed away.

The multi-instrumentalist and record producer will always be best known as an integral part of westcoast rock/jazz-rock trailblazers Steely Dan. Taking in various elements of rock pop and jazz, brought to life in the studio and in the live setting by a crack team of session players – including Michael McDonald, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Toto’s Steve Lukather and countless others – few had equalled the perfectionist sound of Steely Dan.

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HANNAH FAIRLIGHT – Bright Future EP

In an age where there are a billion singer songwriters out there and a little of Nashville rubs off onto so many of them infusing the rock and the pop with country (seemingly the only way some feel they can make the big time), it’s surprising to discover a performer from Nashville who isn’t quite so beholden to America’s core musical style. Step forward Hannah Fairlight, a woman who not only mixes 80s rock and 90s singer-songwriter styles on her 2015 release, but also revels in unfashionable 80s AOR moods that are quite unexpected. Wrapped up in a knowing title, ‘Bright Future’ cares not for fashion and in some ways should be all the better for that. However, it doesn’t care for consistency or honesty either.

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Playing In The Band: The Ultimate Grateful Dead Live Playlist

On this day in 1995, Grateful Dead bandleader Jerry Garcia passed away.  His legacy remains as strong as ever and Dead fans across the globe still hold the band’s work in very high regard.   Despite some top quality studio albums, it was always in the live setting when Jerry and the band really became something special.

Like most bands with long careers, of course, the Dead didn’t always get it right.  They’d sometimes get it spectacularly wrong (as was the case with a late 80s show with Stephen Stills).  With Grateful Dead’s official live releases now numbering several dozen and hundreds of bootlegs still in circulation, the world of Dead live recordings can be a minefield.

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WORLD TRADE – Unify

Mixing prog, pop and AOR, the first album by World Trade is somewhat of a cult classic. Showcasing Billy Sherwood’s multi-layered sound, the record is essential listening for fans of ‘Images of Forever’ by Cannata, ‘90125’ era Yes and ‘Hold Your Fire’ era Rush. Given it’s technical approach and sophisticated choruses, it’s no wonder Billy became a member of the Yes family tree a short time later. Six years on, a second World Trade album appeared, but ‘Euphoria’ seemed to not quite match expectations. Maybe it’s because both Guy Allison and Bruce Gowdy had founded AOR band Unruly Child with Marcie Free in the interim and had other interests; maybe it was just a difficult second record. The record, while enjoyable, lacked the focus of the debut and re-used tracks that Sherwood had previously demoed with Chris Squire alongside other material.

With Sherwood having other projects taking his time and also taking on the unenviable position of full time bassist with the ever-touring Yes in 2015, and with Gowdy and Allison having commitments with Unruly Child, it seemed we’d heard the last of World Trade…and then a third album appeared somewhat unexpectedly on Frontiers Records in 2017.

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STRANGE MAJIK – Deep In The Shadows EP

In the first half of 2017, Strange Majik released the ‘Soul Crisis‘ EP. It’s four songs melded the typical Strange Majik funk, rock and soul sounds with a less typical anger. Donald Trump had just become one of the most powerful men in the world with a mandate that would drag the US backwards at a frightening rate. No wonder Strange Majik’s head honcho David Pattillo was in a foul mood. Several months down the line, very little has changed with the state of the world. Trump has increasingly made America a laughing stock, but people aren’t taking it lying down…or letting it stifle their voices or creativity.

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