Sunday, February 10, 2019

Congratulations to Black Panther Composer Ludwig Goransson!

Ludwig Goransson won the Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media for Black Panther.

Congratulations, Ludwig!

--Raj Manoharan

Black Panther Original Score (2018), by Ludwig Goransson

Black Panther is one of the absolute best Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and certainly the most unique, and its corresponding soundtrack is definitely the best of the bunch.

Ludwig Goransson has created music that is every bit as remarkable as the movie it underscores, especially in its visceral, life-affirming revelry of African sounds and rhythms.

Based on his personal, firsthand research into and study of African musical traditions, Goransson structured his compositions around indigenous vocals, tribal chants, and exotic ethnic instruments, especially drums and percussion (Police drummer Stewart Copeland employed a similar process for his groundbreaking 1985 Afro-pop/rock album The Rhythmatist).

The result is an incredible, epic work of Afrocentric world music fused with hip techno and electronica and rousing, soaring symphony orchestra.

"Wakanda," "Warrior Falls," and the last four tracks of the album are excellent, perfectly capturing the film’s interwoven themes of family, honor, and heroism.

The Black Panther score is not only the cream of the crop of Marvel and superhero movie soundtracks, but it also ranks among the most memorable film music of all time.

--Raj Manoharan

Congratulations, Sting and Shaggy!

The unlikely but dynamic duo of Sting and Shaggy won the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album for their 2018 collaboration, 44/876.

Congratulations, Gordon and Orville (a former U.S. Marine and veteran of the Persian Gulf War -- thank you for your service)!

--Raj Manoharan

Good Luck at the Grammys, Sting and Shaggy!

The unlikely but dynamic duo of Sting and Shaggy are up for a Grammy Award tonight for Best Reggae Album for their 2018 collaboration, 44/876.

Good luck, Gordon and Orville (a former U.S. Marine and veteran of the Persian Gulf War -- thank you for your service)!

--Raj Manoharan

44/876 (2018), by Sting and Shaggy

This is more like it! This is the Sting we all know and love!

The 2016 back-to-basics guitar rocker 57th & 9th was a decent comeback for the veteran pop star, but where that album is merely good, the new release is great! 57th & 9th is fine, but 44/876 is fantastic!

In an unlikely but very agreeable collaboration that turns out to be his most enjoyable to date, the Englishman in New York (among other places) teams up with Jamaican superstar singer Shaggy for a collection of reggae-infused pop gems that are infectious, invigorating, and irresistible.

44/876 has been likened to Sting's experiments with reggae in The Police (“One World (Not Three)” comes to my mind), but overall the album is more similar to Sting's solo reggae excursions, most notably classic songs like “Love Is the Seventh Wave” and “History Will Teach Us Nothing.”

The album has also been described as a party record. Yes, the tone is definitely upbeat. But make no mistake – in many cases, the buoyant nature of the music belies the brooding ruminations of the lyrics. Sting is the King of Pain, after all – especially of wrapping pain up in sweet little pop packages.

Standout songs such as “Just One Lifetime,” “Dreaming of the U.S.A.,” and “If You Can't Find Love” prove that, at 66 years of age, Sting is back in top form and at his classic best.

--Raj Manoharan

Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Ultimate Collection (2016), by Roy Orbison

They aren’t kidding! This really is the ultimate collection!

Not only does this album feature Roy Orbison’s classic hits from all of his early and mid-career record labels, including “Oh Pretty Woman” and “Ooby Dooby,” but it also contains prime cuts from his smash posthumous release, Mystery Girl, and its follow-up, King of Hearts, as well as two Traveling Wilburys tracks!

The 1989 Mystery Girl and 1992 King of Hearts albums present Orbison at his finest, with a modern, updated sound from the Traveling Wilburys era courtesy of producer Jeff Lynne. The songs represented here include “You Got It,” “California Blue,” and “She’s a Mystery to Me” from Mystery Girl, and “I Drove All Night” and “Heartbreak Radio” from King of Hearts.

The Traveling Wilburys close out the collection with the Orbison-led “Not Alone Anymore” and the George Harrison-led “Handle with Care,” the latter featuring refrains by Orbison. (They could have also included “It’s Alright,” but that’s alright.)

So if you’re looking for one album with all the essential highlights, this is it.

This is a must-have for both casual and diehard fans.

--Raj Manoharan

Hits (2004), by Mike + The Mechanics

This album works best as a companion to Mike + The Mechanics’ first two releases, Mike + The Mechanics (1985) and The Living Years (1988), which have much better songs overall than this collection, aside from the obvious hits.

Those would be “All I Need Is a Miracle ‘96” (a remake, but still good, although the 1985 original is preferred), “The Living Years,” “Nobody’s Perfect,” “Silent Running,” “Nobody Knows,” and “Taken In.”

While The Mechanics had far fewer later hits than these in the US and the UK, the rest of the songs, as the liner notes themselves say, have been major hits in one part of the world or another.

Nevertheless, Hits features a nice sampling of the group’s overall work, most notably “Another Cup of Coffee” and “Beggar on a Beach of Gold,” and is worth having if you don’t own or intend to get all of their albums.

If the latter is true, another good collection with more different tracks is their 2014 retrospective.

This is definitely a pleasant and enjoyable listen from beginning to end, but if you really want the best of Genesis guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford’s other band, you should get The Mechanics’ first two albums as well.

--Raj Manoharan