"Musician's Corner " - Here is the latest roundup of what has been doing the rounds in the TWR HQ CD player recently.

First up is the latest offering from Karda Estra, the creation of multi-instrumentalist; Richard Wileman who are no strangers to TWR. The latest album; Weird Tales does exactly what it says on the cover. Opening with The Whitstable Host, a homage to the late great Peter Cushing, and all those Amicus/Hammer horror films which kept us hiding behind the sofa when we were younger (well, me at least!).

Richard’s penchant for the macabre continues with Skulls In the Stars, recalling the stories of Robert E Howard, the creator of Conan The Barbarian among others. A queasy confection this, which conjures up a dank musty cave filled with human remains - chilling stuff!

The Eye Of Silence has the feel of some of the more comic elements of the Victorian “Penny Dreadfuls” and would not be out of place alongside some of Mr Hackett’s more surreal efforts.

Green Dog Trumpet and the rest of the album continue the theme of the bizarre, surreal and suspenseful which is always a mark of Richard’s work. Many of the tracks here would be quite at home in films and it is about time that Richard’s talents as a composer of “visual” music were recognised by a wider public. Get thee to Weird Tales, and shudder!

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Karda Estra: Weird Tales Cyclops CYCL 171

For more information: www.kardaestra.co.uk richard@kardaestra.co.uk

With Steve performing regularly with Hungarian outfit; Djabe, I wondered what their performances sounded like. My curiosity was satisfied when, on a recent visit to Steve’s he presented me with a copy of the Sipi Benefit Concert cd by the band which I am about to review here. Djabe are an informal group of musicians who perform both established music such as some of the Hackett classics which have featured in their shows at which Steve has appeared and also more free-form improvised music which in some cases reminds me very much of performances by Peter Gabriel’s sometime cohort; Youssou N’Dour. Rhythmic and incredibly catchy and emotional, the music and performances on this CD and accompanying DVD which I have not yet seen, take you on journeys which every fan of good music will enjoy. Steve features on several tracks as well as having a solo acoustic spot which we will all be familiar with by now. All in all, an enjoyable album well worth a listen if you can find a copy.

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Djabe/Steve Hackett: Sipi Benefit Concert Grammy Records GR -080

Alongside this recording a couple of extremely enjoyable recordings of some of Steve’s recent gigs have surfaced. First of these is a recording of one of the shows in Italy in March of this year which I was fortunate enough to attend. The recording is of the gig at the Deposito Giordano on 13th March 2009 and features the whole show. With a new look band this time round the show still manages to cover all bases with new track Fire On The Moon (from the forthcoming album: Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth) opening the show in fine style and the harmony vocals between Steve, Gary and new boy Nick Beggs are stunning. Old and new mix together almost seamlessly in this performance with other highlights including: Serpentine Song, The Steppes, Firth Of Fifth (complete this time round!) and an absolutely amazing performance of Broadway Melody Of ’74/Fly On A Windshield. The recording is another from the Digital Brothers stable of releases and the recording quality is simply stunning! If you only have one Hackett ’09 recording in your collection make sure it is this one!

Having been collecting live recordings for the better part of 27 years, it is quite frightening the speed with which recordings appear these days. The second of Steve’s recent performances was performed at the Estival Jazz Festival in Lugano Switzerland on 4th July and I had my copy in my CD player by the 6th July. A radio broadcast this one so the sound quality is impeccable, however the majority of the first disc is spoiled by the between song chatter of two inane Italian presenters. A slightly truncated version of the show is represented here with several tracks omitted. There is a brief interview with Steve at the end of the recording though which sounds to me if Steve were doing it through gritted teeth after having just finished the gig when I am sure he would have preferred to be relaxing back stage or even better back at the hotel!

Fans are certainly being spoiled for footage of the new-look band as not only is the film of the Genoa gig from March 2009 already available but also the accompanying TV broadcast by Swiss TV from the Lugano show is also available. A superb quality broadcast which features Steve’s old cohort; Dik Cadbury on bass for this one due to Nick Beggs’ other commitments - another essential addition to any Hackett collection.

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Another recent arrival at TWR HQ is a delightful CD by Leon Alvarado titled; Leon Alvarado Plays Genesis And Other Original Stuff. This one does exactly what it says on the cover; Leon opens his Cd with an update on the classic Hairless Heart which gives a hi tech treatment to this favourite. Behind The Screen/Cinemania is an Alvarado original, percussion driven and with some interesting use of atmospherics. Fly On A Windshield is another interesting re-working of a favourite Lamb… track. Musically it is excellent but sadly, Leon’s vocals really let the track down (sorry, Leon!). Earthbound/Albert’s Return is another original composition where Leon once again mixes rhythm with some wonderfully atmospheric synth work to create another enjoyable performance. Of Wind & Sorrow too manages to evoke a haunting atmosphere before we are back to the world of Genesis with Cinema Show (Part II) ushered in by some audience applause and then we are given a wonderful rendering of the instrumental part of yet another Genesis classic. The disc is rounded off with another Alvarado original; Broken Promises which once again, rounds off the disc in a suitably dramatic fashion.

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Leon Alvarado: Leon Alvarado Plays Genesis And Other Original Stuff LACD007.

Information: www.leonplaysmusic.com