Wednesday, November 18, 2015

CD (Fan) Review – Alone in the Universe, by Jeff Lynne's ELO

In anticipation of Jeff Lynne’s latest release, I quickly re-listened to the two Electric Light Orchestra greatest hits volumes from the previous decade, the 2001 ELO album Zoom, Electric Light Orchestra Live, Mr. Blue Sky (Lynne’s recent solo rerecording of ELO’s greatest hits), and Lynne’s solo albums Armchair Theatre (1990) and Long Wave (2012).

I’m glad I did, because the new Jeff Lynne/ELO album hits all of those touchstones and then some, fusing bits and pieces of different aspects of Lynne’s long and storied career into a fresh, scintillating new package.

The record features Lynne’s typically brilliant songwriting and singing, with thoughtful and heartfelt lyrics, catchy pop melodies, and earnest, beautifully harmonized vocals.

Lynne also plays most of the instruments, including guitars, bass, keyboards, drums, and percussion. Lynne orchestrates intricate guitar rhythms and textures, and his succinct but sweet guitar solos perfectly capture the feel of each song.

Highlights include the reflective “When I Was a Boy,” “Dirty to the Bone” (featuring harp-like guitar chords underscoring scathing female character assassination), “When the Night Comes,” the uplifting “The Sun Will Shine on You,” “All My Life,” and “Alone in the Universe.”

No matter which era of Jeff Lynne/ELO you prefer – I became a fan during the George Harrison, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, and Traveling Wilburys years – there are wonders to behold in this exploration of the past, present, and future of Lynne’s Universe.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, November 15, 2015

CD Review – Weightless (Ambient Transmissions, Vol. 2), by Marconi Union

The Manchester, England, trio of Jamie Crossley, Richard Talbot, and Duncan Meadows returns with an album of cool atmospherics perfect for tranquil reflection and cathartic unwinding.

The record is really one long chill called Weightless, divided into six parts. The music, apparently composed and performed on keyboards and synthesizers, does give the titular impression of zero gravity, making this an eclectic and enlightening exercise in sonic space as well as an appropriately quiet cosmic soundtrack.

This CD rightly takes it place alongside other genre classics such as The Shimmering Land by Meg Bowles, plus the work of past Marconi Union collaborator and new age legend Brian Eno.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, November 8, 2015

George Barris (1925-2015)

George Barris was the Hollywood Car King, and his creations are every bit as legendary as the stars who drove them on film and television.

His iconic customizations included transforming a 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car into the famed Batmobile of 1960s TV sensation Batman and modifying a 1982 Pontiac Trans Am into the Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT) from the hit 1980s series Knight Rider.

Due to the high-profile nature of his work, Barris can be counted among the most famous and successful car designers in the world.

--Raj Manoharan

Music – Alone in the Universe by Jeff Lynne’s ELO Due November 13, 2015

Alone in the Universe, the first new original studio album by Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra since Zoom in 2001, is scheduled to be released on Friday, November 13, 2015.

This is also Lynne’s first new release since his solo cover album Long Wave and his rerecording of ELO’s greatest hits, Mr. Blue Sky, both from 2012.

It remains to be seen if Lynne performs all the instruments on the new release, as he has on several of his albums, or whether he’s accompanied by other musicians such as veteran ELO keyboardist Richard Tandy, with whom Lynne reunited for an ELO concert in London’s Hyde Park in 2014.

--Raj Manoharan

Music – Infinitia Box Set and The Ocean Single Edition by Michael Nesmith Now Available

Michael Nesmith’s new release The Ocean completes the singer-songwriter’s Infinitia book-and-soundtrack trilogy, which includes The Prison (1974) and The Garden (1994).

The Ocean is available both by itself as a single edition (consisting of one book, one CD with vocals, and one CD without vocals) and as part of the Infinitia box set containing The Prison and The Garden.

All can be ordered directly from Nesmith’s Web site,

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Personal Playlist – The Best of Paul Speer: 1984-2013

If you like the Police and solo guitar work of Andy Summers, you’ll definitely dig the six-string sounds of guitarist Paul Speer.

The two musicians share a passion for jazz/rock fusion, with Summers concentrating more on jazz and Speer focusing more on rock.

I have put together what I think is a comprehensive and ear-catching retrospective of Speer’s work that will appeal equally to newcomers and long-time fans. All of these tracks are available on and come from his solo albums and his albums with Queensryche drummer Scott Rockenfield and British musician Paul Lawler (flutes, keyboards, percussion).

And now I present to you my Personal Playlist of The Best of Paul Speer: 1984-2013. Enjoy!

Allegro / Terra Vista / Allegro Con Brio / Adagio Dolente / Murder or Self Defense / Hi Strung / River of No Return / Carved in Stone / Prelude Oculus / Tuscan Sunset / Denali / Ganges / Accelerator (Rock Mix) / PowerGlide

--Raj Manoharan

Personal Playlist – The Best of Andy Summers: 1989-2015

If you’re not familiar with the music of Andy Summers beyond his tenure as the guitarist for The Police, now is as good a time as any to get acquainted with his solo work, especially as we approach his 73rd birthday, literally at the end of the year (New Year’s Eve, to be exact).

I have compiled tracks that I feel are the most representative of his solo career. Summers has two retrospective albums to his name, but each covers separate and vastly different periods of his career. My collection features music spanning 26 years, all the way from 1989’s The Golden Wire to 2015’s Metal Dog.

My criteria for these selections included that they showcase Summers’ guitar playing first and foremost, spotlight the brilliance and complexity of his compositions (“Green Chimneys” and Reincarnation of a Lovebird” are covers of Summers’ idols Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus, respectively), and share a cohesion of sound even while being independently unique.

And now I present to you my Personal Playlist of The Best of Andy Summers: 1989-2015. Enjoy!

Blues for Snake / Passion of the Shadow / Somewhere in the West / Low Flying Doves / The Somnambulist / Green Chimneys / Reincarnation of a Lovebird / Now I’m Free / Harmonograph

--Raj Manoharan