Remembering Miriam Makeba Playlist

March 4, 2013

Miriam Makeba, nicknamed “Mother Africa” and “The Empress of African Song,” was a South African singer and political activist. Makeba is credited with bringing the rhythmic and spiritual sounds of Africa to the West. Makeba’s social activism and music impressed American Harry Belafonte who served as her mentor and promoter in the United States. In 1968, Makeba married American civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael, which proved a detriment to her career due to Carmichael’s militant “Black Power” stance. Makeba writes about her life in Makeba: My Story which is available at the library. Here are a few songs that reflect the long and diverse career of Miriam Makeba with a mix of multicultural music, pop, blues and jazz.

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Pata Pata/ Miriam Makeba

A surprise Top 20 hit in the autumn of 1967, “Pata Pata” was co-written and cut by Miriam Makeba, who was then married to Afro/jazz/rock pioneer Hugh Masakela. Musically, it’s not far removed from Masakela’s groove, with a wonderful, slightly samba-esque groove driving the whole affair. Makeba wrote a similar song for Masakela titled “She Doesn’t Write” for his fabulous Emancipation of Hugh Masakela album in 1968. Underneath it all, the hook here is that the only English spoken words are essentially a dance instruction for this Johannesburg club favorite. However, unlike most “dance instruction” records, “Pata Pata” transcends the cheesy genre with a gorgeous groove, performance, and vocal. Available on the excellent Collectors Choice ’60s rarities anthology, Buried Treasure.-allmusic.com

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I Still Long For You/ Miriam Makeba

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa of Zulu origin, Miriam Makeba has been affectionately and deservedly dubbed “Mama Africa” by millions of fans worldwide. This 1991 release by South Africa’s queen of song embraces several different styles of music.

“I Still Long For You” has a distinct R&B flavor, while “Don’t Break My Heart” is a sorrowful jazz ballad that features the great Dizzy Gillespie singing in duet with Makeba, and also playing a beautiful trumpet solo. Songs such as “Thulasizwe/I Shall Be Released” and “Thina Sizonqoba” evoke Makeba’s South African roots, the latter also featuring a fine performance by Nina Simone. Finally, “Vukani” spotlights the unique trumpet stylings of Makeba’s ex-husband, Hugh Masekela. More pop-oriented than some of her earlier work, EYES ON TOMORROW finds Miriam Makeba making a bold attempt to combine commercial musical genres with rootsy African music.-allmusic.com

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Umhome/ Miriam Makeba

Now back home in South Africa, Makeba hadn’t done much recording in the 1990s prior to this release, so Homeland amounts to a way of introducing herself to new audiences and updating older fans. Alas, the voice of the mighty Makeba, who was in her late sixties when this CD was recorded, frequently sounds worn and quavery (these sessions may have been an aberration, for she could still summon much of her spine-chilling power of old at the Hollywood Bowl in summer 2000). But for those who followed her turbulent career through the struggles over apartheid, it will be heartwarming to learn that she has finally found some measure of peace in her life. The English lyrics (others are sung in Zulu) sing about coming home, healing broken hearts, living for love, and children. In the album’s most touching gesture, Makeba’s granddaughter,  Zenzi Lee, aimed the lyrics of the title track right at her; the dauntless freedom fighter sounds so glad to be home. As a memory refresher, you also get “Pata Pata 2000,” yet another retooled edition of her international hit from 1967, not radically different from previous versions except that Lee lends a hand with the lead vocals. The backing tracks are mostly low-key, controlled, contemporary in feeling; they don’t ignite, but they don’t get in the South African diva’s way either.-allmusic.com

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Ngalala phantsi/ Miriam Makeba

Makeba’s comeback album, her first U.S. release in almost a decade, is a beautiful collection of traditional South African songs with spare production values that highlight the power of Makeba’s vocals. This is an excellent set of Xhosa folk songs she learned as a child. -allmusic.com

A sangoma is a traditional healer, one who channels the ancestral spirits who advise the living. On this impeccably produced CD, Miriam Makeba returns to her roots, singing the songs of her childhood, and in the process seeks to heal the wounds of apartheid and 30 years of exile from her South African home. The songs here are parables, lullabies, and gathering songs, deeply spiritual and moving. They are songs of struggle and perseverance delivered by Africa’s best-loved voice. Mama Africa (Makeba’s nickname) is joined by a group of soulful women singers. Some songs feature understated percussion; others are gloriously unadorned a cappella. This is an essential timeless album from one of the world’s greatest singers. –Jeff Grubb

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Quit It/ Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba is an icon of South African music, beyond dispute. It’s a status she’s earned over the years, and it gives her the luxury to release a smooth album like this, where she can show a great deal of her range. There are new versions of two of her most famous pieces, “Pata Pata” and “The Click Song,” updated to fit in with her new musical outlook (although it has to be admitted that the originals were much better). There are also a couple of Brazilian pieces, which wok wonderfully well for the relaxed quality of her voice, especially on “Xica da Silva,” while a French ballad, “Comme une Symphonie d’Amour,” unfortunately turns to the incredibly syrupy. She fares much better on a song like “Love Tastes Like Strawberries,” with its delicious airiness and strong lyrics, where she can really shine, and on the bluesy “Quit It,” which offers another, grittier side of her talent. A couple of the tracks come from the pen of her ex-husband, Hugh Masekela, admittedly not the strongest work on the record. She can still sing gloriously, and there are some cuts here that show that. Sadly, too much of it feels like coasting, but she’s entitled to that. Hopefully next time out she’ll challenge herself a little more.-allmusic.com

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Beware Verwoerd = Naants’ indod’emnyama /Miriam Makeba

The soundtrack to Lee Hirsch’s documentary is recommended to people who enjoyed the film and anyone else who’s interested in South African freedom songs. As noted in the album’s liner notes, this is “only a snapshot of South Africa’s musical landscape.” It is mostly limited to protest music and is not as good an overall album as The Indestructible Beat of Soweto, for example. But it does feature a fine assortment of carefully chosen tracks that flow together relatively smoothly despite the differences in musical styles and recording dates (which range from “Meadowlands,” released as a single in 1955, to tracks recorded in 2000 and 2001). It offers listeners a chance to hear studio and field recordings, chants and choral pieces, spoken word snippets, prison singers, and internationally renowned artists such as Miriam Makeba, Abdullah Ibrahim, and Hugh Masekela.  It also serves as a showcase with several tracks by Vusi Mahlasela, whose credentials include guest vocals on the Dave Matthews Band’s Everyday and a performance at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as president. The songs on this album are unified by an inspiring desire for freedom that makes Amandla! more than just a musical sampler and historical overview.-allmusic.com

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The Click Song/ Miriam Makeba

On May 2, 1960, Harry Belafonte returned to Carnegie Hall for what was supposed to be one of the last concerts in the venerable hall’s last season. Carnegie was scheduled to be torn down, although this was an edict that was thankfully short-lived. The hall was instead renovated and remains one of New York’s premier showplaces. The first Carnegie Hall recording from the previous year had had such an impact on the recording industry that it opened up new vistas for live recordings. Belafonte faced the challenge of living up to his own legend. For this concert, he began what would be a concert tradition for him: sharing the spotlight with up-and-coming folk performers. Representing the new collegiate folk singing group trend was the Chad Mitchell Trio, currently appearing at New York’s Blue Angel, where Belafonte had seen them perform. South African singer and activist Miriam Makeba, another Belafonte discovery, also performed, as did folk and blues singer Odetta, and the Belafonte Folk Singers. The guest stars nearly upstaged Belafonte, but this turned out to be de rigueur for his concerts. Highlights include Odetta’s powerhouse medley of the work songs “I’ve Been Driving on Bald Mountain” and “Water Boy,” the Folk Singers’ exciting “Ox Drivers Song,” Makeba and Belafonte’s charming duet on “One More Dance,” and the Mitchell Trio’s exuberant Israeli song “Vaichazkem.” For a finale, Belafonte turned to the Mexican folk dance “La Bamba,” treating it to an eight-minute-long heels-flying festive romp.-allmusic.com

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New Holiday Music Playlist

December 18, 2012

albumHere are some new Holiday CDs at Central…

Christmas in the Sand/ Colbie Caillat

SoCal beach bunny that she is, Colbie Caillat recognized a gaping hole in our collective Christmas consciousness: thousands of seasonal records exist but not a one was made for the beach. And so her 2012 album fills a specific need — it’s a breezy, sunny holiday platter for those who never see a snowflake in their December. Colbie’s specialty is a light touch but she actually rocks a little bit harder here than usual, letting her duet partner Brad Paisley goose “Merry Christmas Baby” with his gnarly Telecaster and giving “Winter Wonderland” an insistent electronic pulse, elements that make Christmas in the Sand a little livelier than either of her full-length platters, but the casual brilliance of this unassuming but thoroughly entertaining holiday album is that it has a genuine personality. Apart from a couple of pretty good newly written tunes, the songs are familiar but the sound isn’t: Christmas in the Sand is lively, cheerful, and bright, the sound of the season for climates where there’s nary a cloud in the sky. And there’s never been a Christmas album like that before, so it’s something of an achievement for Caillat. -allmusic.com

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A Very Perri Christmas/ Christina Perri

Christina Perri’s second EP is a far cry from 2010’s Ocean Way Sessions, which featured a live rendition of her breakthrough, breakup calling card “Jar of Hearts” — Perri, a former café waitress with a golden voice, found her way into the limelight a when “Jar of Hearts” spilled over after a performance on an episode of So You Think You Can Dance. Enter 2012, and Perri has thrown her hat into the annual yuletide blitz with the unfortunately titled A Very Perri Christmas, which pairs five holiday staples with one seasonal original, the quite lovely “Something About December.” It’s fitting that Perri chose the Carpenters’ “Merry Christmas Darling” as one of the five, as her effortless, easy pop vocals owe a great deal to Karen Carpenter, and her renditions of oft-abused standards like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Ave Maria” are so refreshingly austere that they almost sound groundbreaking. In fact, it’s a shame that she stopped at just an EP.-allmusic.com

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On this winter’s night/ Lady Antebellum

Part of Lady Antebellum’s appeal is how they’ve mastered the quiet moments, sounding smooth even at their loudest. That aspect of their personality is absent on their 2012 holiday album On This Winter’s Night, about as big and bold a Christmas album as they come. Lady Antebellum’s approach is very modern, as they rely on secular standards from a variety of styles, copping Phil Spector’s jingling, ornate Wall of Sound for “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” covering Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas,” swinging with blaring horns on “Blue Christmas,” even taking the time to slow down Mariah Carey’s jubilant “All I Want for Christmas Is You” down to a soulful crawl. Everything, even the pretty harmonies on “The First Noel,” is given a high-gloss sheen, which doesn’t make this an album for quiet snowy nights. This is a Christmas album for the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, a soundtrack for days of shopping, present-wrapping, and parties filled with good cheer.-allmusic.com

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Christmas/ Francesca Battistelli

Inspired by legendary jazz greats and current contemporaries like John Mayer and Sara Bareilles, singer/songwriter Francesca Battistelli set out to write pop, soul-infused music that would motivate and encourage listeners of any age. Her exposure to the arts began at a young age with her interest and involvement in theatre, music and dance, and at 15, Francesca began writing and performing her own songs. Francesca Battistelli s 11-track album, Christmas, produced by Ian Eskelin, is comprised of both classics and some newly-penned Christmas tunes. The traditional songs include: “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “Marshmallow World,” “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “The Christmas Song,” “What Child Is This? (First Noel Prelude),” “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” and “Joy To The World.” The new songs all co-written by Battistelli are: “Heaven Everywhere,” “Christmas Is,” “Christmas Dreams” and “You re Here.”-Amazon.com

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Holidays Rule/ Various

Collections of holiday music are a lot like the holiday season itself: not without some magic, but after a few of them you kind of know what you’re in for. While that may sound like a cynical assessment, it’s not meant to be. Holiday music, Christmas songs in particular, become pervasively ubiquitous, with countless renditions of ageless seasonal tunes showing up every year some weeks before Thanksgiving and sticking around until the year changes. Holidays Rule attempts to shake up the standard holiday listening with a cross section of artists ranging from ragtag indie acts to legitimate pop icons having a go at time-honored Christmas classics and wintry holiday songs. The collection features contributions from 17 diverse acts, and at its best, the material succeeds in offering an exciting perspective on songs we’ve all heard in every shopping center and dentist office around the holidays since what feels like the beginning of time.  Fun. open the set with a slickly produced pop-friendly version of “Sleigh Ride.” The pristine arrangement and enormous drums drive the song and turn an often benign tune into something actually pretty exciting. Likewise the Shins take on Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” does not disappoint, re-envisioning the song in a overt homage to Brian Wilson’s saturated Pet Sounds-era productions. McCartney himself shows up a few tracks later with a sweet and standard reading of “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” Eleanor Friedberger from Fiery Furnaces offers the weirdest selection with “Santa, Bring My Baby Back to Me.” The song begins in a regular faux jazz-pop style, breaking down into an overly long section of hypnotic dubbed-out chanting and marimba vamping. More than once on Holidays Rule, bands turn in dire, almost depressive renditions of public domain songs. Calexico’s melodramatic over-orchestrated take on “Green Grows the Holly” and the Civil Wars’ indie folk dirge “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” both drag the collection down with their heavy-handedness. Though the collection has several standouts and a few duds, much of Holidays Rule is as straightforward as it comes, with unremarkable versions of holiday songs by very good names like the Fruit Bats, Holly Golightly, and Irma Thomas backed by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, among others. At its best, the collection is spirited fun, and at its worst it’s inoffensive background music, but it falls short of the adventurous spin on the holiday times it sets out for.-allmusic.com

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Merry Christmas, Baby/ Rod Stewart

Hard as it may be to believe, but Rod Stewart has gotten through five decades without succumbing to a holiday album. That streak ends in 2012 with the release of Merry Christmas, Baby, an easygoing and chipper collection of secular seasonal standards. A couple of carols are thrown in for good measure but these songs — “Silent Night,” “We Three Kings” presented as a duet with Mary J. Blige — along with a mildly incongruous “When You Wish Upon a Star,” slide by easily on the mellow big-band swing of the rest of the record. Song for song, Merry Christmas, Baby is very much of a piece with Rod’s ongoing Great American Songbook series, with Stewart not straying from the familiar form of these songs and producer David Foster laying on all manner of soft, soothing sounds, whether it’s acoustic guitars, synthesizers, strings, or a children’s choir on “Silent Night.” Very rarely does this hint at the Rod of the ’70s — and when it does on the closing “Auld Lang Syne,” its intro given a spare folky treatment reminiscent of his Mercury work, it’s a bracing, effective reminder of Stewart’s skill as a singer — and instead relies on a gladhanding charm that suits the season, not to mention Stewart in his crooning dotage. -allmusic.com

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Home for Christmas/ Celtic Woman

Celtic Woman’s fourth holiday collection, which features the talents of Chloë Agnew, Lisa Lambe, Máiréad Nesbitt and for the first time since 2007, Méav Ní Mhaolchatha, arrives just a year after 2011’s German-exclusive Celtic Family Christmas. Offering up the usual mix of amiable holiday pop (“I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “Winter Wonderland”) and triumphant, faith-based classics (“Joy to the World,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “We Three Kings”), Home for Christmas doesn’t deviate at all from the formula, which after selling over six-million records worldwide, shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.-allmusic.com

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Cheers, It’s Christmas/ Blake Shelton

Now that he’s a big television star, Blake Sheldon decided it was time that he acted the part. And so, Cheers, It’s Christmas, a holiday album timed for the Christmas season of 2012, just so happens to arrive during the thick of The Voice‘s third season. Shelton does not play it cozy and country here; he takes the time to make this a splashy celebration, inviting his wife Miranda Lambert in for a duet on one track and her band Pistol Annies for another, keeping it country with Reba McEntire and keeping it Sinatra with  Michael Bublé, perhaps straying a bit too far from home by singing with Trypta-Phunk, but feeling right at home with Kelly Clarkson. Such a long list of guests can’t help but bring to mind those star-studded seasonal variety shows from the ’70s and, in a sense, the record is stuck in that notion of cross-platform crowd-pleasing, trying to be a little bit of everything to everyone, but that’s by no means a bad thing, as Shelton has an easy charm that carries through any bumps in the road. It’s designed to be classically Christmas, with even its handful of new tunes constructed to sound classic, and Cheers, It’s Christmas does indeed wind up somewhat out of time, sounding like a perennial even upon its first listen.-allmusic.com

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Now That’s What I Call Today’s Christmas/ Various

Now That’s What I Call Today’s Christmas, released in 2012, followed four volumes of Now That’s What I Call Christmas, which were issued from 2001 through 2010. Those four discs reached across several decades for classic and contemporary Christmas music. This one, as the title suggests, leans on later releases and will be useful for younger listeners tired of hearing their parents’ and grandparents’ established favorites. While many of these songs are OK-to-good originals (Justin Bieber’s “Mistletoe,” Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Mittens,” One Republic’s “Christmas Without You”), many selections are covers of older songs (Demi Lovato faithfully does Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime,” for instance) and interpretations of traditional compositions (including Carrie Underwood’s “The First Noel” and Sugarland’s “Silent Night”). The oldest cut comes from the long-running Trans-Siberian Orchestra, whose “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” (1996) closes the disc in instrumental, theatrical form.-allmusic.com


Tribute to Ravi Shankar Playlist

December 12, 2012

Indian sitarist and composer Ravi Shankar died yesterday at the age of 92. He helped bring the music of India into the mainstream with collaborations with rock stars like George Harrison to classical musicians like Philip Glass. He are some of the recordings made by Shankar that are available to MCLS library patrons. For more Ravi Shankar at the library visit http://artsdivision.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/the-music-of-indian-sitar-master-ravi-shankar/

 

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Bangla Dhun/ The Concert for Bangladesh

Hands down, this epochal concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden — first issued on three LPs in a handsome orange-colored box — was the crowning event of George Harrison’s public life, a gesture of great goodwill that captured the moment in history and, not incidentally, produced some rousing music as a permanent legacy. Having been moved by his friend Ravi Shankar’s appeal to help the homeless Bengali refugees of the 1971 India-Pakistan war, Harrison leaped into action, organizing on short notice what became a bellwether for the spectacular rock & roll benefits of the 1980s and beyond. Though overlooked at the time by impatient rock fans eager to hear the hits, Shankar’s opening raga, “Bangla Dhun,” is a masterwork on its own terms; the sitar virtuoso is in dazzling form even by his standards and, in retrospect, Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, and Alla Rakha amount to an Indian supergroup themselves.-allmusic.com

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Concerto for Sitar & Orchestra: Morning Love/ Shankar & Previn

Melody is the essence of Indian music-there is no harmony as Western ears would expect-here the instruments of the symphony orchestra are used individually or in unison to develop, imitate and discuss the thematic ideas expounded by the sitar. The rhythm of Indian music is immensely complex and subtle, being organized in cycles ranging from 3 to 108 beats and, one would imagine, almost impossible for a large band of musicians untrained in Indian music to follow. But Shankar has written the music out in such a way that a marvelous freedom of rhythm is achieved. In Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra the ear hears only the continuous undulating melody, the complex, almost hypnotic rhythms which have entranced so many lovers of Indian music, with the added instrumental color of a Western symphony orchestra.-Susan Regan

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Swara-Kakali/ Ravi Shankar

With over 90 albums to his credit, the task for those who wish to investigate the recordings of India’s master musician Ravi Shankar can be a daunting one. Therefore, the Legacy/BMG Essential Ravi Shankar fills a welcome place in his catalog and serves as a starting point for the novitiate. There are 20 cuts on these two discs that range over most of the sitarist and composer’s shelf, from his early Angel recordings where he played mostly Indian classical music, to his later recordings for Private Music, to his lone Columbia album, The Sounds Of India, in 1968. Along the way,  Shankar is featured in many settings, from solo to performances with large ensembles of traditional Indian musicians, to his collaborations with violinist Yehudi Menuhin from the gorgeous West Meets East recording, to his recording with George Harrison, to his work with Philip Glass and numerous other musicians on Passages. Through it all, Shankar is consistently in the classical framework, whether he is improvising on ragas or performing other compositions. The sound here has been completely remastered and the liner essay by Hank Bordowitz is both informative and compelling factually. This is the real intro to Shankar that has been needed for such a long time on CD.-allmusic.com

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Geetaa/ Ravi Shankar

Mantrum: Chant of India is a very smooth and delicate recording of sacred Sanskrit and Vedic prayers. George Harrison produced this set for Ravi Shankar. In the liner notes, Shankar states his intention to preserve the intense spirituality of the chants and to give them universal appeal. Shankar’s style and diversity allow him to open doors that are closed to other musicians. The instrumental accompaniment adds depth and soul to this recording. Shankar’s compositional and sound-design styles add atmosphere. Harrison’s deft touch allows the music to develop and maintain its own integrity. Among records of this nature, this one is special. It will appeal to fans of Nawang Khechog, Jonathan Goldman and Sheila Chandra. -allmusic.com

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Raga Patdeep/Gat Sitarkhani Taal

With a recent focus on Indian music taking a foothold on the Rough Guide series, it was only fitting that the grand ambassador of Hindusthani music would get a retrospective of his own. Taking a somewhat surprising turn here, the compilers have stuck with a number of relative rarities highlighting periods of  Ravi’s career, but not highlighting the more noteworthy performances and collaborations. The album opens with “Kathakali Katthak,” a 1989 composition for a theater troupe. Moving on, “Transmigration” hails from the British film Voila, and a rendition of “Mishra Piloo” pairs Shankar with his premier tabla compatriot, Alla Rakha, for an extended, ponderous work. Two dhuns hold the middle of the album, with “Dun Man Pasand” paying tribute to the city of Paris and “Devgiri Bilawal” allows some of Ravi’s trademark high-speed runs. “Reflection” comes from the film Transmigration Macabre, and somewhat obviously has a reflective atmosphere, with somewhat unusual rhythmic structures filling out the mood but keeping the whole a bit off-center. “Raga Patdeep” is mixed with a high-speed gat in “Sitarkhani Taal” for another of the signature displays of virtuosity that help to display why Shankar is an undisputed master of the instrument.-allmusic.com

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Ragas in Minor Scale/ Philip Glass, Ravi Shankar

A collaboration between an avant-garde modern classical composer and a traditional Indian/Hindi composer/performer seems as unlikely as ice hockey on the River Styx. However, Passages is a collaboration between Philip Glass and Ravi Shankar and it works quite well. Shankar’s smooth style fits nicely with Glass’ dissonant orchestrations. There is a great deal of technical data involved here. Both of these artists have long taken intellectual approaches to music. Thus, the liner notes are a bit heavy-handed. The music is brilliant. The symphony dominates the soundscapes, but Shankar’s atmospheres are integral to the success of this project. This CD will appeal to fans of John Cage, Terry Riley, and Steve Reich.-allmusic.com

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Raga Hansadhwani/ Ravi Shankar

Rare and Glorious draws from the archives of Saregama, Ravi Shankar’s longtime Indian record label, to compile a two-CD set of eight ragas with a total running time of 135 minutes; the tracks range across Shankar’s career, with the earliest one, “Raga Hansadhwani,” having been first released in 1962, and the most recent one, “Raga Shudh Kalyan,” in 1988. Five of the tracks run 19 minutes or more in length, allowing Shankar time to explore the themes and gradually develop the dynamics of a complete raga. The sitar player was already over 40 when the first of these recordings was made, so he is heard as a mature musician practicing his art in full flower. This kind of music is not really susceptible to a “greatest-hits” selection, but many of these tracks are notable not only for the accomplished playing but also for their return to availability on this release, since they previously only appeared on long out of print LPs. Thus, the album justifies the words of its title, containing music that is both “glorious” and “rare.”-allmusic.com

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Dadra/ Ravi Shankar

One of the early works of art created for the West by the Grandfather of World Music. This album stands as an early attempt to teach the curious western listener about the complexity and beauty of Indian music. Composer Alan Hovhaness provides some rather thorough liner notes describing the systems involved in Indian classical music (with the focus clearly on Hindustani forms), and goes into some detail on the finer points of the four ragas performed (Maru-Bihag, Bhimpalasi, Sindhi-Bhairavi, and Pancham-se-Gara, which is played during the piece titled “Dadra,” actually a tala). Throughout the album, short lessons in the forms and techniques are given by Shankar himself before the various pieces are performed. For sheer musicality, something like The Genius of Ravi Shankar might be a better choice for a look at the earlier years, but for a historical document of both Shankar’s amazing abilities, as well as his love of spreading the word for his music and teaching others, this album is perhaps better. For collectors, both albums would be wonderful additions to the collection, as early examples of World Music making its way into the non-native markets quite successfully. Give this one a number of listens for the music itself, and maybe a spare just for the history in it.-allmusic.com


Rochester Summer Music Scene Playlist

June 19, 2012

The city of Rochester comes alive with music every summer with some great events that showcase a variety of bands and artists that are as diverse as the community. The 16th annual Party In The Park kicks off every Thursday evening from 5-10 PM  for ten weeks starting on June 7 through August 9 at the Riverside Festival Site on the corner of Court Street and Exchange Boulevard across from the Blue Cross Arena. All concerts are FREE! The Big Rib BBQ & Blues Fest starts Thursday July 12 and continues through Sunday July 15: lunch, dinner and live music! Highland Bowl concert highlights include Wilco and Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. Here’s a sampling…

I might/ Wilco

The Whole Love is the work of a band that’s stylistically up for anything, from the edgy dissonance of “The Art of Almost” and the moody contemplation of “Black Moon,” to the ragged but spirited pop of “I Might” and the cocky rock & roll strut of “Standing O,” but more so than anything the band has done since Being There, The Whole Love sounds like Wilco are having fun with their musical shape shifting.- All Music Guide

My Body/ Young the Giant

The West Coast jazz-evoking album jacket of Young the Giant’s self-titled debut doesn’t exactly paint an accurate picture of the California quintet’s breezy modern rock sound, but it does complement it quite nicely. Here’s a band signed to a heavy metal label, whose music is anything but, and which actually excels through recurring shows of subtlety, not force. That’s not to say Young the Giantdon’t know how to rock; tracks like “My Body,” “Garands,” and “St. Walker” plug the guitars in and crank them up to that “tough but hooky” sweet spot inhabited by the Kings of Leon and sometimes even My Morning Jacket. -All Music Guide

Boom Boom/ Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds

The Dirty Birds navigate every twist and turn Sister Sparrow throws their way (or is it the other way around?) with ease. Check it out: here we have some smoky big-smile reggae (“Boom Boom”, “Vices” – Blondie lives!); over here we find 70s-vintage bluesrock reminiscent of J. Geils on a hot night (Arleigh’s harp-blowing brother Jackson channels Magic Dick on “Quicksand”); and over here we find a few things that just can’t be labeled so easily (the tango-on-acid of “Baby From Space”, for instance), but are fun nonetheless. And through it all are woven threads of sexy funk. Bottom line: this album is just plain fun. – Jambands.com

Pockets/ Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad

This one is about as straight-up as roots reggae gets: one-drop and rockers rhythms, socially conscious lyrics, and dubwise production flourishes are all in evidence here, and if the politics get a bit ham-handed sometimes, the grooves are relentless and powerful. Highlights include the excellent one-drop anthem “All Night Music” and a fine sufferer’s number titled “Pockets,” and the slow, thick rockers groove of “World War” is also excellent. – All Music Guide

Paper Boy/ Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers

Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers come up with combustible jazz-rock arrangements revealing the influence of Steely Dan (notably on “Paperboy”) and Brian Wilson (“Michael Raphael”), used to support sometimes bizarrely humorous lyrics, as signaled by the opening song, “The Black Rats of London.” Old-time Hornsby fans who fell away over the years might want to give this one a listen; it’s closer to his singer/songwriter self than he’s been in many years. -All Music Guide

It’s 2 A.M./ Shemekia Copeland

Copeland continues to prove herself as one of the strongest young talents in the blues on this disc. While the material itself isn’t as strong as that on her stellar first album, she still invests her all in tunes like the blasting “Not Tonight” and the romantic “Love Scene.”-All Music Guide

American Slang/ The Gaslight Anthem

With their hearts on their sleeves and their feet planted firmly in the garden state, The Gaslight Anthem’s third album, American Slang, plays out like an offering to Springsteen, the patron saint of heartland rock. The feeling on this album is considerably more relaxed. All of the punk rock tension and urgency have been replaced by a more patient and heartfelt mood. This change of pace really gives the listener the ability to sit back and take in the scenery on their musical Rust Belt road trip, making for a more moody, understated experience.- All Music Guide

Let Them Knock/ Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings

Because soul music — and this isn’t neo-soul, or contemporary R&B, but straight-up Stax and Motown brassy soul — is so much more than the actual lyrics themselves; it’s about the inflection and emotion that the vocalist is able to exude, and Jones proves herself to be master of that, moving from coy to romantic to defiant easily and believably. The magic and power of Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings: their ability to convey passion and pain, regret and celebration, found in the arrangements and the tail ends of notes, in the rhythms and phrasing, and it is exactly that which makes 100 Days, 100 Nights such an excellent release. -All Music Guide

Lost in a Crowd/ Rusted Root

Rusted Root’s debut album is an agreeable collection of post-hippie folk/rock. Drawing from The Grateful Dead, Phish and Graceland-era Paul Simon in equal measures, the band can certainly work a low-key groove, spinning out solos and singsong melodies at well. They haven’t perfected their songwriting yet — many of the songs sound underdeveloped — but their music sounds mature and hints at their potential.-All Music Guide