Sunday, August 21, 2011

CD Review – Damayanti, by 2002

Husband and wife Randy and Pamela Copus literally make beautiful music together as the Billboard-charting New Age duo 2002, whose latest album is an enchanting masterpiece of musical fantasy and mythology.

Although the music is inspired by and serves as a soundtrack to the Hindu story of the love between Princess Damayanti and King Nala, it stands on its own as a brilliant work unto itself. The sweeping, cinematic themes are worthy of an epic motion picture.

Randy’s guitars, basses, and piano, Pamela’s harp and flutes, and the duo’s keyboards and multilayered, multi-tracked voices come together to create some of the most lyrical music in the New Age genre – or any genre, for that matter.

The sparks really fly on the second track, “Flight of the Swan,” with Randy’s luminous lead guitar and Pamela’s angelic flute weaving a pristine, ethereal melody, resulting in one of the most breathtaking tunes ever recorded. The song is as graceful as the subject of its title, and as cool as an ocean breeze.

Other standout tracks include “Cycle of Time,” with Randy’s liquid guitar and Pamela’s flute again creating sonic magic; “Divine Encounter,” a heavenly ballad with smooth, buttery rhythm guitar and dynamic percussion; and “Time Stands Still,” a soaring, triumphant conclusion that conjures both the solemn and euphoric strains of classic film composers such as John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, and James Horner. Movie scores of the last twenty years have been severely lacking in originality and have been neither memorable nor iconic. 2002 could easily fill that void and make movie music vibrant again and restore the cinematic experience to its former glory.

My favorite tracks notwithstanding, the entire album is captivating from start to finish. The particular story that inspired the music is enthralling and brought to life as only Randy and Pamela can bring it, but the music stands apart on its own and has the ability to create unique stories for each listener and serve as the soundtracks to those stories. The song titles are elements of Damayanti and Nala’s story, but they also aptly describe the feel of the songs themselves.

I could go on, but no words are really sufficient or necessary to relay the wondrous essence of this music. It really needs to be heard and treasured. I would be surprised if there were any soul that could not be moved by this album. It truly is one in a million.

--Raj Manoharan

Saturday, August 20, 2011

CD Review – Carried Away, by Janice Faber

Although this is Janice Faber’s third album of piano performances, this is the first album featuring her original compositions, and it is a solid collection.

The CD features sixteen tracks, some of which sound like hymns and others of which sound like classical pieces. That’s no surprise considering that these forms are among Faber’s primary influences. Regardless of whether or not you like hymns or classical music, you will still like Faber’s original compositions because, no matter their source or inspiration, they stand on their own as beautiful pieces of music.

This is also one of those rare albums that are so perfect from beginning to end that when you pop the disc in, the music drifts dreamily into your consciousness and takes you away into a place of serenity and tranquility. The other great quality of the CD is that it is cohesive in terms of its overall feel of peace and quiet, which is the result of both Faber’s gentle compositions and subtle, nuanced playing.

The soothing nature of the music makes it perfect for use as background music, for unwinding, or for getting rid of tension and stress.

--Raj Manoharan

Saturday, August 13, 2011

CD Review – Where I Belong, by Sajjad

If the first album by Bangladeshi-Canadian keyboardist Sajjad is any indication, the composer-musician has a promising career ahead of him.

Sajjad’s freshman offering is an auspicious debut, featuring strong melodies, impeccable musicianship, and dynamic energy, based on Sajjad’s keyboard- and synthesizer-based compositions. The music is built on a solid Western foundation with modern electric instruments and flavored with ethnic and traditional instruments and voices from around the world, giving the album a global sound. This is on par with world-class artists like John Tesh and Yanni, and I would say even exceeds them in terms of vigor, originality, and accessibility.

While Sajjad demonstrates excellence as a consummate bandleader on the majority of the tracks, he really shines on the first two tunes, which feature his keyboard dexterity and synthesizer sounds and textures at their best. The opening title track is a confident beginning statement, and the second track is true world fusion, complete with global rhythms and vocals. In fact, the latter is very similar in feel to the recent AOMUSIC release …and Love Rages On!

The CD is appropriately titled, because this is clearly where Sajjad belongs as an artist.

--Raj Manoharan

Saturday, August 6, 2011

TV – Classic Rerun Roundup

If you’re tired of the same old programming that passes for fresh, contemporary television and would rather spend some time with old friends like Aunt Esther, Buffalo Butt, Monroe Ficus, Cosmic Cow, and NO MA’AM, you’re in luck. TV Land’s and Antenna TV’s evening lineups are devoted to some of the funniest classic sitcoms from the 1970s through the 2000s.

TV Land runs Sanford and Son, All in the Family, and Everybody Loves Raymond, along with occasional episodes of original sitcoms Hot in Cleveland and Happily Divorced.

Antenna TV’s schedule includes Sanford and Son, Good Times, Maude, All in the Family, and Married with Children, with the addition of Too Close for Comfort/The Ted Knight Show on weekends.

Whoa, Bundy! And Die-No-Mite!

--Raj Manoharan

TV – Starsky & Hutch Ride Again on RTV

The 1970s TV cop duo is cleaning the boob tube (or LCD or plasma set) of crime at 8:00 p.m. weeknights on RTV (Retro Television Network), and it’s quite the “trip” down memory lane.

The funky second-season theme by Tom Scott is both catchy and cheeky and complements the hilarious opening credits much better than Lalo Schifrin’s grim, downbeat, first-season theme.

And hilarious the opening credits are, because, although the show is called Starsky & Hutch, the guy who plays Starsky (Paul Michael Glaser) and drives the flashy red and white-striped Ford Gran Torino is the second actor listed. David Soul (Hutch) gets top billing, and over a freeze frame of him yelling and flailing his arms maniacally.

Antonio Fargas, who plays nightclub-owning street informant Huggy Bear, gets special standout billing (“and Antonio Fargas as Huggy Bear”). But then, all of a sudden, the credits list Bernie Hamilton (the irascible but lovable Captain Dobey). That’s it – just Bernie Hamilton. It’s like the credits are saying, “…and Antonio Fargas as Huggy Bear – oh, by the way, Bernie Hamilton.”

There’s more to the show than just the hilarious opening credits and wacky main theme, and certainly much more than the insipid, shallow, and unworthy big-screen Starsky & Hutch parody starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. Stiller and Wilson may be funny (not really), but they’re no David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser. Soul and Glaser are solid actors with great screen chemistry, and Glaser is a better and more accomplished film and television director.

Even if you’re not into TV cop shows or don’t particularly care for Starsky & Hutch, at least just check out the opening credits and main theme of the current rotation of episodes on RTV. It’s one of the more entertaining highlights of classic 1970s television.

--Raj Manoharan