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)
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)
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..
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.
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).
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.
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)
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.