Monthly Archives: July 2001

I’ve had an unusually social few days. Saturday night was the much anticipated (by vain, show-offy me) Smiths/Morrissey karaoke night at Cinema Classics. Althought I managed to turn up about two hours early, it was a lot of fun, and definitely a very different way to spend an evening. People sang on a little stage in front of the videos (they used ‘the complete picture’ and ‘hulmerist’, two videos I own, but haven’t seen for 10 years or so). I sung ‘Sheila take a bow’ and minced around the stage. It was fun.

After a day at the beach, we went into town to see Pete Yorn, supported by Ours at Bowery Ballroom. Tickets had been bought for me by a Pete-loving friend who works at the label, so I went along. How was it? It was a very different experience to Tindersticks, put it that way. The crowd was all-American, with the state of New Jersey particularly well represented. Ours were a very tight, pretty rock band, far too rock for my taste, but clearly quite good at what they do. They ruined it all by doing a ridiculous cover of a fragment of Queen‘s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ though… Pete Yorn was ok. He’s a nice looking, rocking guitarist/singer, who has a tight band. I thought it was a sign of the times and an indication of ‘the CD generation’ when he mentioned his album, and introduced a song as ‘Track 8′. Anyway, there’s no point in hiding the truth – I didn’t like any of his songs, and he destroyed the Smiths‘s ‘Panic’ with rock posturing. Seemed like a nice guy and all, but it’s not my scene!

I have been buying a stupid number of records. I will start reviewing them en masse at some point.

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I unexpectedly ended up going to yet another show last night after my band practice. It was at Tonic in NYC, and the band was Smokey Hormel and Miho Hatori’s Los Afros Samba. Smokey is a guitarist who plays with Beck, and Miho is one of the singers in Cibo Matto. Anyway, they were pretty good, playing a mix of Brazilian standards (e.g. my fave, ‘canto d’ossanha’) and originals, with some great authentic percussion. The overall effect was kind of like Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66, but without Sergio on the piano. It was a cool sound.

I’ve been listening to a lot of old Morrissey songs, which I’ve been downloading. They really are pretty wonderful, particularly the earlier ones from 88-89 (obvious ones like ‘suedehead’, ‘every day is like sunday’, but also ‘sister I’m a poet’). I’m warming up for the Smiths/Morrissey karaoke night this weekend at Cinema Classics here in nyc.

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Well, I take back what I said about Stuart Staples of Tindersticks – he actually is quite cool. He now has a short haircut and a more swaggering, self-assured on-stage persona. The show was enjoyable – although it was sold out, the venue was full, but not completely packed. The band are very good at what they do – they perform very tightly and look pretty cool as well. I still think that their songs have gone too far down the ‘simple’ route, and their earlier stuff (e.g. my favorite ‘Her’, which they played in their first encore) makes for much more interesting pop music. Ignoring an enthusastic crowd’s requests, they didn’t play ‘My sister’, or ‘tiny tears’, but stuck with a blend more recent material, with most songs coming from the last three albums. I could help but feel sorry for the guitarist and the bassist, who had to play their repetitive parts for what seemed like an age while the vioinist, Dickon, and Stuart had all the fun.

I just bought (used) the Gainsbourg ‘great jewish music’ tribute CD. It’s actually much more accessible than I had expected it to be.

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I’m off to see Tindersticks tonight. It will be my first gig in a while. I hope it’s good. They generally put on a great live performance, but I didn’t enjoy the new album as much as I’d hoped I would. I’ll listen to it later and try and get into it.

Sorry this site hasn’t been working the last couple of days. You should now be able to read the reviews ok without any ugly error messages.

Scott Walker: 'The Moviegoer' (LP; Contour; 1972)
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This is a very special Scott album to me. Scott chooses some of his favorite songs from films, and comes up with a list including titles by Ennio Morricone, Henry Mancini, Lalo Schifrin, John Barry and Michel Legrand. Not only was the guy a genius, he had great taste as well... Perhaps due to the nature of the material, Scott sounds more like a Sinatra-like crooner on this album than on his earlier solo albums, and this doesn't deliver quite the solid genius I was hoping for. There are a couple of country styled tracks which don't appeal to me that much. Overall, it's still very enjoyable though.

The opener is a great vocal version of John Barry's brilliant 'This way Mary'. The only other vocal version I know of is by Matt Monroe, and Scott's version, a moody, heartfelt piece with strings, surpasses this. The mood is similar on 'Come Saturday Morning'; the string arrangements are wonderful, and sound like they could have come from any of Scott's late 60s solo sessions. Other highlights are 'Loss of Love' from Mancini's 'Sunflower' score, Morricone's 'the ballad of Sacco and Vanetti' ( wish Scott had sung more Morricone stuff...) and 'That night' from Lalo Schifrin's 'The Fox'.

Tindersticks: 'Can our love...' (CD; Beggars Banquet; 2001)
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This is a pleasant enough album, but immediately, it appeals to me slightly less than 1999's 'simple pleasure'; the production is a little less smooth and to my taste. Some of the songs are a little over-long, but it's still nice dark, meditative pop. My favorite tracks are 'dyin slowly', 'sweet release', 'chilitetime' and 'don't ever get tired', but my main feeling on first/second listen is just of indifference. It's not bad, and it's not good...

Probably my least favorite track is 'people keep comin around', an overlong, and slightly monotonous piece. I've heard those simple violin parts in so many Tindersticks songs now that I've grown tired of them. 'tricklin' is a short experimental piece. I'm really not one to talk after my crappy 'Impossible Music' album, but this ends up coming across as lazy filler material, particularly next to some of the great songs they've written. 'Can our love...' is pleasant enough, with a funny twangy effect on the guitar. The song showcases the soulful mood of Tindersticks again - it's simple, slow and quite charming, with backing vocals and a repetitive chorus. 'Sweet Release' has a great blend of acoustic guitar, organ, violin and vocals, and is pretty cool, in spite of its repetition and 9 minute length. Still, I think I might make myself a 'radio edit'; the song doesn't really do anything special to justify that length. 'Don't ever get tired' is a bit more like it at 3:07. It's charming, if unremarkable, sounding quite a lot like the band's early work. 'no man in the world' opens with the singer Stuart doing some talking. This never works well for me, just because frankly I don't think he sounds very cool. Sorry to be fickle, but I'm very big on talking in songs (my personal favorite song-talkers are Julian Cope ('jellypop perky jean', Nick Cave ('foi na cruz'), even Skeeter Davis ('the end of the world')). Stuart just doesn't quite cut it. To be fair though, it turns into a nice song. The final song, 'chilitetime', opens promisingly, with organ and a cool electric guitar. It soon relapses into the same pattern as most of the rest of the album though - repetition, long songs, nice instrumentation, very simple chords. I'm afraid that after listening to this album I feel similar to how I felt after hearing Nick Cave's 'The Boatman's Call' - it's nice enough, but not interesting enough musically to really sustain my interest.

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Hmm, my database is playing up today (or at least the table in which I store my record reviews is). So I’m sorry if you’re seeing a bunch of error messages. I did actually review Astrud Gilberto’s ‘windy’ today, but I’m not sure if you can see it.

Astrud Gilberto: 'Windy' (LP; Polygram; 1968)
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I'm a deeply childish person, and I'm also from England, so I hope you don't mind me indulging in some toilet humour. This album cover amuses me because not only is the album called 'Windy', but Astrud is also looking rather sheepish, as if she has spent the last few minutes releasing a series of deadly chuffs. Hence her new nickname, 'Windy'.

Ok, now that's over with, to the album. It's a jaunty pop vocal album, which apparently was pretty much ignored at the time, like Astrud's other late 60s verve albums. I can see why to a certain extent - the song choices are rather generic, and Astrud's delivery is annoying rather than charming on some tracks. Still, overall I still like this a lot, if not quite as much as 'I haven't got anything better to do' and 'September 17, 1969'.

The opening track, 'Dreamy' is a nice Eumir Deodato-arranged pop song, written by Luiz Bonfa. It's a little lightweight, but fun. However, her version of Marcos Valle's 'Chup, chup, I got away' ('gente') is really rather excruciating. 'Never my love', another Association song is nice enough. I've just heard the song too many times, you know... Plus, Della Reese's version is better.

Astrud had a few things in common with Claudine Longet, I'd say. As well as some very similar albums with similar songs and similar production, they both seem to have had an obsession with slipping songs with children onto their albums. Here Astrud takes on 'Bare Necessities' with the help of her son Marcelo. Although some days I smile when I hear it, let's face it, this is pretty dreadful. The title track, 'Windy' is good (I've actually never heard a bad version of 'Windy', twee as it is), with a cool arrangement and a nice funky beat.

'Sing me a Rainbow' suffers from a poor delivery by Astrud. Am I being cruel today? Listen to this and tell me if you agree. I love her voice normally, and find it utterly charming, but on a few of these late 60s recordings, she really sucks.

In my opinion, the Beatles track 'in my life' is a pretty crazy choice of song to cover, in view of the intensity of the original. Astrud doesn't manage to evoke such intensity, but it's actually a pleasant enough baroque-pop take on the song, with a neo-classical, harpsichord-laden arrangement.

The Marcos Valle song 'Crickets sing for Anamaria' ('os grilos') fares better than her version of 'gente', but the vocal delivery is still poor, frankly; the track is rescued by a cool Eumir Deodato arrangement.

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Work = still very busy. Life looking up I guess. I started to take vitamin B complex. My grandmother told me it will make me less tired. I had a band practice. The band will be pretty cool, I think. Anyway, I will try and start reviewing my enormous backlog of CDs (I’m pathetic- I can’t even keep up with the new ones I buy!)

Compilation: 'Between or Beyond the Black Forest Volume 2' (CD; Crippled DIck Hot Wax; 1968-1978)
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Yikes. I was really happy to find this used, but that was because I thought I would enjoy it far, far more than I actually did. It's wacky stuff, and rather demanding on the ears. There are bursts of funkiness, but many of the songs are over-long, and it's mostly jazz/rock hybrid (with the emphasis on jazz), without much to offer to a poor wimp with a big pop sensibility like me. The drums are quite prominent throughout this compilation, and there are plenty of cool electronic noises. It just doesn't gel enough for me. Maybe I need more patience! Where the tracks are more coherent, they tend to be over-smooth and over-long (e.g. 'scratches' by Charly Antolini). Probably my favorite track here is one I already knew from the 'Get Easy' vol 4 compilation - Nelson Riddle's easy-funk number 'Volcano's daughter'. Also enjoyable is the creepy crime-jazz style (even though it's from 1968) 'Powerstart' by Roland Kovac.

Overall, however, this leaves me cold. Even the great Dave Pike fails to impress me with the track 'baiafrock/volker'. It's an over noodley fusion piece which sounds entirely tasteless to me.

Bullet: 'The Hanged Man' (CD; DC Recordings; 1975)
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I bought this because I had heard it was a mega funky and sought after LP. This CD, which looks like a bootleg in spite of its excellent sound quality, was put out in association with the famous 'Intoxica' record store in Notting Hill, west London. Anyway, it's not bad at all, but most of it is rather laid back action jazz, not the frenetically funky stuff I'd imagined. Vibes, electric piano, a lot of bass, and a recurring theme, kind of schifrin- esqueIt's all quite cool, but not super super cool somehow. Not bad at all, and worth the $8 I paid for it, but it hasn't changed my life...

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My work has become horribly busy. Not too busy for me to go out to Academy at lunchtime and buy 5 (five) CDs though. Nice one! I also listened to the new Marcos Valle. It’s ok.

Marcos Valle: 'Escape' (CD; Far Out; 2001)
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Hmm. I guess the bottom line on this one is that it's 'not my scene'. I'm genuinely delighted that Marcos is recording again. However, this isn't exactly my kind of record, alas. The first problem I have with it is his decision to use guest vocalists. I bought a Marcos Valle album - I don't want to hear other singers, particularly since they add to the already overly prominent smoothness of the record. The second is that the songs in general suffer from too much repetition and sound rather generic.

To be fair, there are some highlights. A few tracks retain some of the feel of some of Marcos's classic work and expand on it quite successfully. 'O indio e o brasil', cowritten with Vinicius Cantuaria (whose name is spelled wrong on the cover - what is it with these Far Out/Mr Bongo releases and the lack of proofreading!) is a nice little bossa with some solid guitar playing and some (synth) piano and strings. Great stuff, but it would be good to unleash Marcos's arrangements on a full orchestra again... 'Apaixonada por Voce' has similarly prominent guitar and some nice chord changes. The vocals are by Patricia Alvi rather than Marcos, but still, it's a good song with a lot more bite and variation than most of the rest of the LP. 'On Line', while very simple, is nice, with a Marcos vocal and some prominent guitar. It's definitely too long though...

'Festerira' begins with a classic feel - berimbau, guitar and some group vocals. It's probably the only track on this album which sounds like it could have been recorded in the 60s or 70s. It's a little too much of a repetitive samba for my taste, never really developing musically has I would have liked.

The first track, 'escape', sees Marcos revisit his 'Garra' era scat vocal technique. Sadly, the song sounds musically rather generic to my ears, and while it's pleasant enough, there's not really enough in the song to justify its 5:43 length. 'Maria Mariana' is quite cool, although the cheesy echoey effects on Marcos's voice aren't that great, and the production is so not-to-my-taste that I find it quite hard to appreciate the rest of the song. 'Poweride' has an extremely 70s/80s smooth jazz style production, so you can probably guess how I feel about it. It also overstays its welcome by about 6 minutes by clocking in at 7:56. 'Realidade' is a tender Marcos vocal, but alas sounds rather dated before its time, thanks to the cheesy bass sound and the 90s electronic beat.

I know it would have been too much for my idol to have guessed that I wanted him to make another record in the style of his late 60s/early 70s material and then go ahead and make it. Still, I can't help but be slightly disappointed by the musical niche Marcos seems to have found himself in to my ears, an odd sounding fusion of acid jazz, smooth jazz and 90s beats.

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Listened to that Michel Legrand compilation I have again today. It really is an odd mix. Also, I like the Brazilian compilation I did for my friend; I hope he likes it too.

Compilation - Michel Legrand: 'Le Meilleur de Michel Legrand' (CD; Philips; 1964-1992)
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A strange compilation, which I seem to remember having to wait 6 months or so to receive when I bought it online. While it was definitely worth the wait, it covers a strange mix of styles. There are some wonderful tracks on here, and also some which come close to being truly cringeworthy.
The jazzy vocal tracks work best for me - Michel is an exhuberant singer, and has a nice line in scat vocals ('elle a..elle a pas...' is quite amazing in this way). Many of the jazzier tracks, e.g. ' l'ame soeur a l'hamecon', 'marins, amis, amants ou maris' have some cool latin percussion going on, while Michel has a similar kind of cool to Serge Gainsbourg's early jazz stuff on 'trombone, guitare et compagnie'.

Less to my taste are the slow, mournful orchestral vocals, of which there are a few ('valse de lilas', 'je vivrai sans toi', 'et la mer', 'comme elle est longue a mourir ma jeunesse'). They're really not bad, but would have worked better for me as instrumentals.

The rest of the CD has a few very cool tracks. The stunning instrumental 'le cinema' was sampled by Dimitri from Paris and was also recorded by Claude Nougaro, while Michel's duet with Nana Mouskouri, 'quand on s'aime' manages to be very cool in spite of being slightly schmaltzy. 'Di-gue-ding-ding' is on here too - a ludicrous upbeat scat pop number, famous for its inclusion on the 'inflight entertainment' CD.

There are a few really odd children's numbers - 'ou vont les ballons' is a strange, spooky, upbeat pop track with a children's choir that sounds like it would be a good soundtrack to a nightmare. 'Oum le dauphin' is intense and somehow ridiculous.

The 'un ete 42' theme is an almost generic sounding but undeniably beautiful easy listening orchestral soundtrack piece.

All in all, I would have preferred all jazzier tracks, but I'm glad I have it anyway.

Compilation - Tony Hatch: 'Hatchback' (CD; Sequel; 1960)
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It's really a very interesting compilation. Unlike others in the series, this includes more than just straight 60s easy listening and film music, and extends into the mid/late 70s with a few interesting disco/light funk numbers. The best tracks on the disc (on first listen) are the really great lush brasilian style ones - e.g. 'sole bossa nova', 'brasilia mission' - and the gentle, quiet ethereal ones - e.g. 'return to the stars'. Other great ones are pretty straight-ahead 60s pop numbers without the vocals - e.g. 'you're the one', 'round every corner' (which I remember Jack or Scott from In Hi-fi playing a lot). Some tracks are quirky in a way which grates slightly to me - e.g. 'El Payaso', 'Who dun it', and many have something of a generic, library music feel (e.g. 'latin velvet' seems to rip off 'how insensitive', 'who dun it' seems to rip off 'felicidade'). However, the best tracks easily make up for this. The compilation has been out since 1997; I'm glad I managed get it in the end.

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How Insensitive

I burned 6 or 7 CDs today. With esther’s spanky new computer, this isn’t hard at all. If you have a master disc to copy from (I was mostly making copies of existing compilations I’d made before), it can be done in around 6 minutes, with no pissing around copying files to the harddrive and deleting them. Pretty cool, huh… I made a new brasilian compilation for a friend I’m doing a trade with. This involved trawling through a lot of old archived mp3s as well as encoding some vinyl. A self-indulgent but quite fun way to spend a Sunday. Hit of the day was probably ‘How insensitive’ by Elis Regina. The song is so well known that you wouldn’t expect this to be all that compelling, but the infectious, relentless rhythm, coupled with string arrangements by Peter Knight, who did some of the arrangements on Scott Walker‘s solo albums, make for a really delicious track.

Another mp3 I’m enjoying at this exact moment is Francoise Hardy‘s obscure English language version of Ennio Morricone‘s ‘se telefonando’, most famously recorded by Mina. ‘I will change my life’ is a slighly clumsy sounding track; the backing is identical to that of Francoise’s French version (‘je changerais d’avis’), but somehow the English words don’t sit so well: ‘I will change my whole life everything I ought to remember will soon be gone….I will change my whole life if that’s what you want I’d be glad to let you leave me…oh….I will change all my friends if that’s what you’d like and do anything you want me…to…..if you really love me I know I could give it all up and change my whole life…for…you’. Oddly, this track was only ever referred to as ‘I will change me life’, which as well as making no sense is clearly not what she sings. Hmm.

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In Hi-fi at Bar d’O last night was excellent; Jimmy Botticelli played a very cool set, mixing some 60s easy listening/now sound with some disco stuff in a similar vein.

I have had an odd 24 hours. And the soundtrack has been by…….Ananda Shankar! I had two CDs of his music with me at work, and (well perhaps not totally) by coincidence, a record by him also arrived in the mail – the legendary ‘Ananda Shankar and his Music’ album…

Ananda Shankar: 'Ananda Shankar and his Music' (LP; EMI India (reissue bootleg); 1975)
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This just came in from Dustygroove. I was keen to own the whole album, famous for the two 'killer sitar fusion dancefloor tracks' - 'dancing drums' and 'streets of calcutta'. The pressing looks a little dodgy, but the cover is beautiful, thick and heavy. I will report back on the rest of the album when I've heard it.

Compilation - Ananda Shankar: 'Melodies from India' (CD; EMI India; 1975-1984)
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An unusual CD compilation of Ananda's work. I'm sure this would sell by the bucketload on ebay, but as it is it never appears there and can instead be had quite cheaply from many indian cd stores (there are a few online ones, often based in CA)

1. 'The Lost Galaxy'
atmospheric, beautiful slow..

2. 'Explorations'
groovy and mysterious, this song takes all kinds of unexpected turns. It still sounds very definitely ethnic and rather cinematic. Extremely cool.

3. 'Universal Magic'
prominent strings, some very interesting instrumenation involving some kind of piano/harpsichord hybrid which I can't immediately identify.

4. 'Flights of Fantasy'
This one could work well on the dancefloor - feverish beat, yet still much more Indian sounding than the fusion of 'streets of calcutta' and his US album on reprise.

5. 'Dreams Forever' (from Missing You EP - 1977)
a slow and atmospheric number. The strings and flute are slightly imposing, but it is rather lovely.

6. 'The Hill Train' (from A Musical Discovery of India - 1978)
this one is more poppy, and rather catchy, with plucked strings. The melody line is slightly imposing at first, but it's a nice song.

7. 'Almora' (from Missing You EP - 1977)
another meditative number from Ananda's EP in remembrance of his father

8. 'Brindavan Revel' (from A Musical Discovery of India - 1978)
Opens with a feverish tabla beat, and... my, I feel really inadequate trying to describe these songs, because they are so different. But here goes: the track continues manically with several instruments playing the same theme; there are a couple of points where just the percussion is left playing a new theme comes in. I'm convinced this is a great track, but that I need to teach myself how to listen to it, if you know what I mean.

9. 'Missing You' (from Missing You EP - 1977)
Opens with a nice picked acoustic guitar; some really nice vibes come in, and a nice mournful tune is played on what sounds like a lute; joined later by a sitar. This is one of the more western sounding tunes; although the instrumentation is very different, musically this sounds more like western pop. Conseqentially, I've found it a little more accessible, and am really quite into it right now.

10. 'Jungle King' (from Sa-Re-Ga Machan - 1981)
This is another very interesting track, with a slow introduction, and then a rock-funk kind of feel. Features an incredible funk/tabla break in the middle, which recalls the classic and much compiled track 'streets of calcutta'. Someone could easily pull out the bare 'funk' part of this song and make a trashy dance number, but to my knowledge that hasn't happened yet, so it's nice to hear the track in its entirety.

11. 'Indrasabha'
Nice, accessible slow number with a lot of tabla. Cinematic.

12. 'Kaziranga Beat' (from A Musical Discovery of India - 1978)
Sounds like a soundtrack for a film shot out in the wild - all mad spooky percussion sounds, and then a frantic bass/percussion mix. I'm not really explaining very well, sorry.

13. 'Akbar's Jewels' (from A Musical Discovery of India - 1978)
Like most of the tracks from the 'musical discovery of india' release, this is very ornate and almost pictoral, opening with a great shimmering sound. This is more of a traditional sounding track, with no sitar (that I can hear, anyway).

14. 'Planet-X'
I would guess that this is taken from the 1984 release '2001', but I could be wrong. Anyway, it's quite nice, again, the arrangements are quite traditional.

15. 'Togetherness' (Missing You EP - 1977)
Nice meditative piece with organ.

16. 'Dancing Peacocks'
This is a sweet, poppy number with a strong rhythm and a lot of sitar. One of the more accessible tracks on this compilation.

17. 'Yearning'
An atmospheric, mournful number with vibes

18. 'Dance of Shiva'
Has a long, slow, brooding introduction. Builds a little, but never becomes too frenetic - instead just steady with heavy tablas and what sounds like multiple sitars and strings.

All these reviews probably make me sound pretty ignorant, which I am, but I figure no one has really reviewed these tracks song by song before, so I'm trying, albeit inadequately. I think it can be hard for those not accustomed to this kind of music to hear in it any more than just generic Indian restaurant music. There is really a lot more in there to discover though.

Ananda Shankar: 'Ananda Shankar' (CD; WEA; 1970)
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Ananda's classic US recorded and released album. Beautifully crisp fusion, contrasting his own indian styled compositions with kitschy yet very cool covers of 'light my fire' and 'jumpin jack flash'. Nice record, one which I enjoy enough to own on both CD and vinyl.

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