Thursday, February 27, 2014

CD (Fan) Review – Movies of the Mind 2013 Live, by Michael Nesmith

Three months after wrapping up his 2013 Movies of the Mind tour, legendary singer-songwriter and pop culture icon Michael Nesmith presents his live recording of that successful sojourn, and it's almost as good as having seen the tour in person.

I attended Nesmith's performance at bergenPAC in mid-November, and the album cements the memory in my mind like it was yesterday. In addition to his songs, the CD features Nesmith's introductory “movies of the mind” setup for each song or group of songs.

The album is a very good representation of the live show. The band members – Nesmith on 12-string acoustic guitar and vocals; Chris Scruggs on electric and acoustic guitars, pedal steel guitar, and mandolin; Joe Chemay on bass and backing vocals; Boh Cooper on keyboards and backing vocals; and Paul Leim on drums – sound just as great on record as they did live.

As for the songs themselves, they are all 100% classic Michael Nesmith originals, spanning five decades of Nesmith's career, from the 1960s to the 2000s. Although Nesmith is 70 years old on this recording, his voice is as vibrant and energetic as ever, with his endearing Texas drawl and country twang blending beautifully with the urbane sophistication and wit of his music and lyrics.

If you saw Nesmith on this tour, this is a wonderful souvenir and reminder of that experience. If you didn't make it to the show, this is an equally wondrous revelation of musical “movies of the mind” magic.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, February 23, 2014

CD Review – Notes From a Journey, by Kristin Amarie

Kristin Amarie proves herself a vocal force to be reckoned with on this delightful showcase of her considerable talents.

Amarie's singing exhibits great range, depth, and nuance and is a perfect complement to the songs.

All of the compositions are engaging and wonderfully arranged and produced, with instrumentation that is lavish and orchestral. Many of the songs have the feel of show tunes, and I don't mean over-the-top peppy numbers, but rather measured and easy-going ballads. Just on the strength of this CD, I could see Amarie headlining her own residency in Las Vegas or some similar entertainment mecca.

If you're looking for great songs essayed by an enchanting chanteuse, you can't go wrong with this album.

--Raj Manoharan

Friday, February 21, 2014

Music – Paul Speer, Guitar Hero

Having recently become a fan and listened to pretty much all of his albums (with the exception of his collaborations with David Lanz and Leroy Quintana), I can say that as a guitarist, Paul Speer is without peer. His guitar artistry is always on point. Regardless of the genre he's working in, he continually nails it with unique, razor-sharp phrasing and clean, crunchy tones. In terms of his overall body of work, he is the most consistent, focused, and precise guitarist of his time working in new age jazz/rock fusion. His albums are available at and at, where he has some good deals, including a couple of CDs and DVDs for one cent!

--Raj Manoharan

TV – Them Duke Boys!

That’s right! Them Duke boys are back, never meanin’ no harm and causing all manner of mayhem in Hazzard County. The Dukes of Hazzard returns to CMT weeknights at 8:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m.

The 1979-1985 CBS series – about cousins Bo, Luke, and Daisy Duke and their Uncle Jesse running afoul of the corrupt, corpulent Boss Hogg and his shifty-eyed, beagle-loving henchman, Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane – set the stage for the action-comedy adventure shows of the 1980s, such as Magnum P.I., The Greatest American Hero, Knight Rider, The A-Team, Simon and Simon, Matt Houston, and Remington Steele. The show’s single greatest contribution to the genre was gravity-defying car chases complete with multi-angled point-of-view shots: in front of the car, on top of the car, under the car, behind the car, behind the tires, etc. In fact, cars lifted off so often on the show that even the show’s narrator and theme song composer-performer, Waylon Jennings (“The Balladeer”), once proclaimed that “Hazzard is the only county that needs an air traffic controller for the cars.”

CMT first aired The Dukes of Hazzard back in 1997, when CMT was The Nashville Network (TNN). 1997 was a banner year for the classic show. Not only was the series airing every weeknight at 7:00 p.m., but the original cast had reunited for a major network television reunion movie appropriately titled The Dukes of Hazzard Reunion. The only cast member sorely missing from the reunion was the late Sorrell Booke, the criminal and curmudgeonly but cuddly and lovable Boss Hogg. Naturally, Sheriff Rosco took over for his former mentor and "little fat buddy" and was now Boss Rosco. The Dukes’ second and last reunion movie, Hazzard in Hollywood, aired in 2000.

I had the pleasure and honor of interviewing both John Schneider (Bo Duke) and Tom Wopat (Luke Duke) separately over the telephone for the occasion of the TNN reruns and the first reunion movie. I also wanted to interview James Best (Sheriff Rosco), but the CBS publicist wasn’t sure if he was still alive, so that was a lost opportunity. By the way, you had better head on over to James Best’s Web site,, and order an autographed copy of his autobiography before he really is gone. As Sheriff Rosco would say, “I love it, I love it, I love it! Kyugh, kyugh, kyugh!”

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, February 2, 2014

CD Review – Elixir: Music for Moving & Still Meditation, by Yang Ying

East meets West in this entrancing fusion of Chinese and American music.

Yang Ying – who was the featured soloist with the Central Song and Dance Ensemble, China's premier traditional musical and dance troupe, for 18 years and also founded, played bass, and sang lead vocals for Cobra, the first all-female rock band in China – composed the tunes, which feature her primary instrument of erhu, a two-stringed bowed spike fiddle or southern fiddle also known as the Chinese fiddle or a Chinese two-stringed fiddle, in combination with synthesizers.

The result is a dreamy concoction of ethnic sounds juxtaposed with high-tech tones that create a sense of peace and tranquility that is soothing and refreshing.

This album will be of special interest to aficionados of ethnocentric world music.

--Raj Manoharan