Lee Oskar: Never Forget (Dreams We Share CD). Harmonica player Oskar probably is best remembered for founding the group War with Eric Burdon, which had hits with “Spill the Wine” and “Mother Earth” back in 1969-70. The group featured a twin sax-harmonica sound with Charles Miller and Oskar.

Composed, produced and illustrated by Oskar – he also was art director for the covers of War’s albums — the new, mostly instrumental album addresses the atrocities of the Holocaust, as Oskar’s mother and aunt were Holocaust survivors. The album is sequenced as if a soundtrack. The album is his musical memoir, telling his journey, his and his family’s story and also humanity’s story.

In a press release, Oskar states that “the messages here and the theme were the critical elements. I thought in every composition that the melodies and the meanings, as well as the playing, was designed to reinforce that underlying point that we’re taking you on a trip and it’s a trip designed to make you never forget the horrors of the Holocaust. In many ways I see this as my ultimate statement.”

The album’s large cast of supporting musicians includes not only guitarists, bassists and drummers, but string musicians, reed players, background vocalists and even an oud player and a flamenco guitarist. Such compositions as “Last Moments (Saying Goodbye)” and the standout “Liberty (An American Waltz)” resonate powerfully thanks to sweeping orchestrations, soaring strings and evocative horn parts. Oskar’s harmonica lines drive and anchor every selection.

The opening “Far Away Dreams,” which dates back to 1988, has a soaring piano and harmonica melody. Both “Song from Mom,” which is more dramatic with mandolin and strings, and the title track “Never Forget,” have the intensity of a family tragedy that should always be remembered and a desire for humanity to never again let that type of horror occur. “World For Peace” features a vocal chant. The strings on the closing “My Road” conclude the album with an emotional uplift. Grade: A

John Lodge: The Royal Affair and After (BFD CD). During the summer of 2019, Lodge was part of the The Royal Affair Tour with Yes, Carl Palmer, Arthur Brown and Asia. Most of this live album was recorded in Las Vegas, with additional tracks recorded at other U.S. dates during his Performs Classic Moody Blues Tour. Lodge was the bassist, songwriter and a vocalist for the Moody Blues.  Backing Lodge is his 10,000 Light Years Band, which includes longtime collaborator Alan Hewitt (music director and keyboards) and drummer Billy Ashbaugh, both from the Moody Blues touring band, plus guitarist Duffy King and cellist Jason Charboneau. The cello is a new element to the songs.

The performances cover classic Moody Blues songs from the core seven albums, plus the rocker “Saved by the Music” from his 1975 album “Blue Jays,” made with Justin Hayward. Lodge plays homage to the other Moodies by performing a song by each, including Ray Thomas’ “Legend of a Mind” (the so-called Timothy Leary song is a highlight here), Mike Pinder’s more mystical “Sunset,” Hayward’s “Nights in White Satin” with Yes’ Jon Davison singing, and Graeme Edge’s “Late Lament,” with a recording of Edge performing the poem (Pinder did so on the album). Edge sadly passed last November.

Rockers include Lodge’s “Steppin’ in a Slide Zone,” “I’m Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band” and “Ride My See-Saw,” the latter with Davison on backing vocals. Another highlight is Lodge’s “Isn’t Life Strange.” Grade: A-

Asia: The Official Live Bootlegs Vol. 1 (BMG, 10 CDs). Speaking of Asia, there is this wonderful five-concert set. The first show was May 3, 1982 in Buffalo, N.Y. on their first U.S. tour, with a set list I was familiar with, as I saw the band in Boston four dates earlier. The core quartet of the progressive supergroup consisted of keyboardist Geoffrey Downes (Yes, The Buggles), guitarist Steve Howe (Yes), drummer Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) and vocalist/bassist John Wetton (King Crimson, UK). While still playing progressive music, the new Asia material was shorter, with pop and rock touches, resulting in such classics as “Only Time Will Tell,” “Wildest Dreams,” “Sole Survivor” and “Heat of the Moment,” all played during this first concert. Downes, Palmer and Howe all get solos, with Howe playing Yes’ “The Ancient” and “Clap.”

The second 2-disc concert is from Aug. 22, 1983 in Worcester, Mass. Some of the sound is muddled, but, overall, the band rocks much more and they include seven of the 10 songs from “Alpha,” their second album. Solid new additions are “The Heat Goes On” and “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes.” The band broke up after this tour until reforming in 2006.

The third set is from March 23, 2007 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the last show of their world tour that marked the band’s 25th anniversary. Each of their heritage band’s get a cover, including Yes’ “Roundabout,” ELP’s cover of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” and King Crimson’s “The Court of the Crimson King.” Other specials are an acoustic version of “Don’t Cry” and the non-album “Ride Easy.” All the Asia classics are included and the sound is very good.

Set four is from May 12, 2008 in Tokyo, with the then-new songs “Never Again” and “An Extraordinary Life” added to a similar set list as in Sao Paulo. Set five is from Dec. 14, 2010 in London, featuring then-new songs “I Believe,” “Through My Veins” and “Holy War.” Grade: A