Tuesday, October 13, 2015

CD (Fan) Review – Ghost on the Canvas, by Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell’s final original studio album, from 2011, captures the legendary genre-defying artist in fine form.

This is one of those rare albums on which every song is excellent, varying between intimate acoustic guitar pieces and full-bodied ballads replete with acoustic and electric guitars, bass, keyboards, drums, and percussion. My top three favorite songs are the introspective “A Better Place,” the soaring title track, and the ethereal “Nothing but the Whole Wide World.”

Even though Campbell is 75 years old on this recording, his voice is as vibrant and poignant as ever. And he still wrings out those distinctive, trademark bass-note guitar solos like only he can.

This is quite a grand exit for quite an extraordinary performer.

--Raj Manoharan

Best Song of All Time

In my nearly 43 years, I haven’t heard a song as affecting as “Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell. Jimmy Webb’s brilliant melody and lyrics, the lush instrumentation, and Campbell’s earnest vocals and signature bass-note guitar solo come together in a perfect fusion that is unmatched, making this possibly the best song of all time.

The last time I remember hearing this song was on the radio during family road trips in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. I became reacquainted with it recently in all its glory while listening to Campbell’s 2009 Greatest Hits album. The rerecording from the 2013 album See You There and the live version from the 2015 soundtrack album Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me are just as powerful, with the older Campbell’s meeker but still determined vocals exuding even more emotional resonance.

All three versions of the song are absolute, unmistakable gems. Get the aforementioned albums if you can, or at least the songs. If nothing else, get the original recording.

Do it while the Wichita Lineman is still on the line.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, October 11, 2015

CD Review – Unravel: The Extended Suites, by Peter Jack Rainbird

Inspired by the majesty of the Pacific Ocean, Peter Jack Rainbird took his electric guitar, a couple of small amplifiers, and a small suitcase full of sound effects gear and set up shop at various civic spaces along the West Coast, performing a series of day-long live improvisations.

The result is a spontaneous and eclectic kaleidoscope of sounds, tones, and textures generated by Rainbird's guitar and layered through live looping, with a bit of grand piano added to the mix.

This is a unique listening experience that is not only refreshing and invigorating, but musically insightful and enlightening as well.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, September 27, 2015

CD Review – Saraswati Dreams, by Jaya Lakshmi & Ananda

Warm acoustic guitar combines with exotic Indian instruments and singing for a delightfully pleasing and hypnotically entrancing world music sound.

The album is beautifully and richly layered thanks to the talents of Jason Bailey on hammer dulcimer; Hans Christian on bass, cello, and keyboards; Krsna Dev on vocals; Dasi Karnamrita on vocals; Jaya Lakshmi on guitar, harmonium, kartals, piano, shaker, and vocals; Prema Mayi on vocals; Rasa Priya on sarod; Deepak Ramapriyan on violin and vocals; Ankush Vimawala on tabla; and Ananda Yogiji on bansuri, bass, guitar, harmonium, shaker, and vocals.

This is a worthwhile entry in the growing trend of Eastern-Western musical hybrids.

--Raj Manoharan

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Jack Larson (1928-2015)

With the passing of Adventures of Superman cast member Jack Larson, only “Lois Lanes” Phyllis Coates and Noel Neill remain as the last surviving stars from the iconic 1950s television series.

Larson was not the first actor to portray Daily Planet photographer and cub reporter Jimmy Olsen, but over the course of the show's six seasons, he set the standard for those who followed in his footsteps, most notably Mark McClure of the Superman and Supergirl films from the 1970s and 1980s.

Later a playwright, librettist, and movie producer, Larson will always be remembered as the plucky and affable Olsen. His memory lives on in reruns of Adventures of Superman every Saturday from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Eastern Time, on Me TV.

The classic TV network paid tribute to Larson with a memorial black-and-white photograph preceding each of this past Saturday's two installments of Adventures of Superman. The unscheduled episodes focused on the late Larson's Jimmy Olsen character.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, September 20, 2015

CD Review – Moksha, by Ray Spiegel Ensemble

This is “raga rock” if I've ever heard it.

Drummer and percussionist Ray Spiegel leads an energetic and vibrant world music ensemble that includes himself additionally on dohl, manjeera, marimba, and tabla; Ira Coleman (Billy Cobham, Herbie Hancock, Sting) on bass; Robert Levin on percussion and talking drum; Ramesh Mishra on sarangi; Melanie Richeson on harp and tanpura; Stan Scott on harmonium; Tani Tabbal on cajon and drums; Frank Velardi on drums; and Junior “Gabu” Wedderburn on bongos, congas, and djembe.

The real standout is the late Stephen James, who, in addition to playing violin, plays the sarod with the invigorating fire and fury of an electric lead guitarist.

This is an engaging sonic blend of East and West.

--Raj Manoharan

Monday, September 7, 2015

TV – CHiPs Back on the Beat on Me TV

Despite removing Adam-12 and Hawaii Five-O from its schedule, Me TV does earn some kudos for bringing back my guys Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada with the return of CHiPs – or CHmePs, as Me TV likes to call it – to the lineup.

Once again, you can relive the good old days as motorcycle cops Ponch (Estrada) and Jon (Wilcox) patrol the freeways of Los Angeles weeknights at 6 p.m. on Me TV.

--Raj Manoharan