The drives worked after the restart.
Funny thing though is that thereafter upon a restart while I'm toying with the sound max driver
the drives did not work~!
I had installed the latest vista side gadget which is an open & close button for drives. I uninstalled that feature and again the drives are working again.
So, i'm not quite sure yet if this side gadget is also part of the issue. I will see if any intermittant issues continue upon fresh restarts.