Sunday, April 26, 2015

CD Review – Shivoham: A Journey into Bliss, by Manish Vyas

For the second week in a row, we have another album of Indian music framed in the context of western sounds, this time presented by world music artist and tabla player Manish Vyas.

Vyas sings a variety of Indian mantras and devotional songs, and the combination of his entrancingly hypnotic tenor and Indian and western instrumentation blended together results in lush and soothing sounds that make you feel like you're traveling through exotic lands.

Like last week's featured album, this is a great introduction to Indian music that is both accessible and enjoyable.

--Raj Manoharan

Monday, April 20, 2015

CD (Fan) Review – Chappie Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, by Hans Zimmer (Additional Music by Steve Mazzaro and Andrew Kawczynski)

In an era when Hollywood film composers are concocting increasingly complex and convoluted themes that are melodically elaborate but ultimately unmemorable, veteran Hans Zimmer continues to prove himself to be a master of minimalist motifs that leave long-lasting impressions. Such is the case with his excellent score for the equally excellent and unfairly underrated film Chappie.

Once again, Zimmer demonstrates that less is indeed more, achieving with just a few simple riffs what others fail to do with a preponderance of notes. The result is a masterpiece of percussive, pulse-pounding industrial techno music that brilliantly underscores the film's explorations of sentient technology, unconventional families, human and artificial existentialism, and societal breakdown and chaos.

What sets this soundtrack apart, aside from its addictive appeal, is that it is Zimmer's first entirely electronic score in over two decades (with the exception of, as Zimmer puts it, “a chap whistling”). Zimmer and his team – which includes Steve Mazzaro, Andrew Kawczynski, and Junkie XL among others and which Zimmer dubs the Chappie Elektrik Synthphonia – created and programmed the music on 40-year-old analog synthesizers.

The electronic sounds and textures recall Jan Hammer's acclaimed pioneering work on the iconic 1980s Miami Vice TV series, but on a much more grandiose and epic level. Others have also likened Zimmer's score to Vangelis's electronic music for Blade Runner. Like those other scores, the soundtrack for Chappie not only perfectly suits the movie, but stands on its own as a compelling and bold work of art.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, April 19, 2015

CD Review – Kirtan Aid: Orphans of Rishikesh, by Various Artists

Kirtan Aid is a series of charity albums produced by the Sat Nam Foundation and Spirit Voyage Music, with various sacred chant artists from around the world donating tracks and one hundred percent of the profits funding humanitarian concerns.

The latest edition focuses on the plight of the Orphans of Rishikesh, abused, abandoned, and destitute children who receive care and rehabilitation at Ramana's Garden, a safe haven and home tucked into the foothills of the Himalayas.

Contributing artists include Krishna Das, Snatam Kaur, Deva Premal and Miten, Ram Dass, Jai-Jagdeesh, Harnam, Nirinjan Kaur, Tina Malia, Shimshai, Jai Uttal, Wynne Paris, Simrit Kaur, Dave Stringer, Karnamrita Dasi, Sudha, and Maneesh de Moor.

The music is primarily classic and traditional Indian chants, framed within the context of modern Western instrumentation and mixed with exotic ethnic sounds. The result is a worthwhile listening experience that also benefits a worthwhile cause.

--Raj Manoharan

Saturday, April 18, 2015

RajMan Reviews' Top Four Star Wars Movies

To mark the occasion of the recently released teaser for Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, here is my list of my top four Star Wars movies of all time. Initially, I was going to make it a top three list, but then the list would have been dominated entirely by the original trilogy. So to make the list more fair, I am expanding it to the top four.

1. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
2. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
3. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
4. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)

--Raj Manoharan

RajMan Reviews' Top Ten Superhero Movies

To mark the occasion of the recently released teaser for the highly anticipated 2016 movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, as well as the forthcoming releases this year of Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, and Fantastic Four, I offer my list of what I believe are the top ten superhero movies of all time.

1. Superman (1978)
2. Man of Steel (2013)
3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
4. Batman (1989)
5. Batman Begins (2005)
6. The Dark Knight (2008)
7. The Dark Knight Returns (2012)
8. Batman (1966)
9. Iron Man 2 (2010)
10. Thor (2011)

--Raj Manoharan

RajMan Reviews' Top Ten Superhero TV Shows

With all the superhero shows proliferating on television lately, I think it's about time I offer my list of what I believe are the top ten superhero TV shows of all time. Here it is.

1. Adventures of Superman (1950s)
2. Batman (1960s)
3. The Amazing Spider-Man (1970s)
4. The Incredible Hulk (1970s/1980s)
5. The Greatest American Hero (1980s)
6. Superboy (1980s/1990s)
7. The Flash (1990s)
8. Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1990s)
9. Arrow (2010s)
10. The Flash (2010s)

--Raj Manoharan

TV – Superman Returns! See the Dawn of Justice on Me TV Before It Arrives in Theaters!

This is what I wrote back on December 28, 2013:

Watching Batman and Wonder Woman on Me TV is a great way to prepare for the Man of Steel sequel set for release in 2015, with Henry Cavill reprising his role as Superman and joined by Ben Affleck as Batman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Now all Me TV needs to do is add the 1950s series The Adventures of Superman to the lineup.”

My thought has become reality as The Adventures of Superman is now part of Me TV's Super Sci-Fi Saturday Nights lineup.

The classic show starring George Reeves as TV's first live-action Man of Steel kicks off a super-powered evening of super-heroics at 6:00 p.m., followed by Adam West and Burt Ward as the Caped Crusading Dynamic Duo in Batman at 7:00 p.m. and Lynda Carter as the original warrior princess in Wonder Woman at 8:00 p.m.

Now, thanks to Me TV, super fans will be super ready to anticipate the theatrical release (now set for 2016) of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, starring Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, and Gal Gadot as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, respectively, and introducing a host of other legendary DC Comics superheroes.

--Raj Manoharan