Sunday, July 26, 2015

CD Review – Language of the Soul, by Steven Vitali

The latest album from world-renowned pianist StevenVitali showcases the artist's immense talents in a variety of musical settings.

The CD features 17 tracks that range from sensitive and thoughtful to sweeping and grandiose, with elements of industrial and techno thrown in for good measure.

The instrumentation on each song includes everything from a single piano to various combinations of keyboards, guitars, drums, and percussion.

The result is a sonic prism that filters the many facets of Steven Vitali's creative expression, which will be appreciated by piano enthusiasts as well as fans of music in general.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, July 19, 2015

CD Review – Songs of a Siren, by Lea Longo

Lea Longo's latest album is a buoyant take on world/new age music.

The CD contains 10 tracks that blend pop singing and songwriting with Indian mantras as perfectly as possible.

Longo has a classic, straightforward, and natural voice that puts today's synthetic, auto-tuned pop princesses to shame, resulting in great vocals regardless of whether she's singing English or Indian lyrics.

The album also has a fantastic sound, thanks to the talents of Radford Crasto on guitars and sitar, Andy Dacoulis on guitars, Alexandre Laoie on flute, Shawn Mativetsky on tabla, Alex Paquette on bass, Allister Philip on Fender Rhodes, and Jesse Tolbert on drums, percussion, guitar, synthesizer bass, and keyboards.

If you're looking for engaging pop music with depth, as well as an exciting alternative to the hackneyed mainstream, this is it.

--Raj Manoharan

Saturday, July 18, 2015

CD (Fan) Review – Metal Dog, by Andy Summers

At long last, the much-anticipated follow-up to Andy Summers and Robert Fripp's seminal, iconic, progressive experimental albums I Advance Masked and Bewitched is here – except this time, it's all Andy.

As befits his first fully independent, self-released solo recording, Summers truly goes it alone, composing all the music and playing all the instruments himself, including bass, keyboards, drums, and percussion. Summers pulls it off so well that it's easy to forget that he's the only musician in the studio. Of course, as always, his guitars, as well as other stringed instruments, are the focal point of the proceedings, with Summers producing exquisite, elegant leads, rhythms, and solos, covering a range of styles from blues and funk to jazz and rock.

While the 10-track collection definitely has the spirit and elements of the previously mentioned Fripp collaborations, as well as Summers' solo instrumental albums Mysterious Barricades, The Golden Wire, and Synaesthesia, it is at the same time fresh and original.

This is unlike anything Summers has done before, with its variety of textures, tempos, and time signatures. But Andy's classic sounds pop up here and there, reassuring us that our guitar god is still present as ever.

Although every composition is stirring, my favorites are “Ishango Bone,” “Bitter Honey,” and especially “Harmonograph,” with its slithery, electronic lead guitar. These are the most conventional sounding “songs” on the album, and even then they're unconventional. In a sense, Summers has come full circle from his eclectic musings on the track “Circe's Island” from David Bedford's 1976 album The Odyssey.

In its review of Summers' 1995/1996 release Synaesthesia, Entertainment Weekly wrote, “With Andy Summers, even if you expect the unexpected, you'll still be surprised.” This has been true of each and every project by Summers, and the epic, groundbreaking Metal Dog is certainly no exception.

--Raj Manoharan

Irwin Keyes (1952-2015)

When I saw veteran actor Irwin Keyes' picture recently due to his passing, I immediately thought, “That looks like Hugo, George Jefferson's bodyguard from The Jeffersons.

Turns out, that was Hugo!

Although I don't remember seeing Keyes in his many notable film and television roles since then, I never forgot his appearances on The Jeffersons. Any actor that can make such a memorable impression on me that I can instantly recognize a picture of him over three decades later is a giant in my book.

It would be a kick if Keyes was up there keeping a close eye on Sherman Hemsley.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, July 12, 2015

CD Review – Light of the Naam: Morning Chants, by Snatam Kaur

Snatam Kaur presents another album of Eastern devotions and meditations featuring her pleasant vocalizations of ethnic lyrics over Western style instrumentation and music.

Kaur also plays harmonium, and she is joined by Thomas Barquee on keyboards and vocals, Sheela Bringi on flute, Ajeet Kaur on vocals, Sri Kirtan on bass and guitar, Sukhmani Kaur Rayat on tabla, Luigi Recca on drums and percussion, Simone Sello on guitar, John Stephens on sitar, and Cameron Stone on cello.

Thanks to the singer-songwriter style of the music, this is another accessible and enjoyable sample of Eastern culture and tradition.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, July 5, 2015

CD Review – At the Temple Door, by Ajeet Kaur

This album of Eastern meditations and mantras sung by Ajeet Kaur has a singer-songwriter vibe to it, thanks to the folksy, new age styling of guitarist Todd Boston.

In addition to providing vocals, Kaur plays harmonium and piano, and Boston also plays flute, percussion, and sarod.

Adding to the lush, layered, and textured sound are Hans Christian on cello, Ramesh Kannan on percussion, Snatum Kaur on vocals, Ramdass Khalsa on clarinet, piano, and vocals, and Sukhmani Kaur Rayat on tabla.

This is an enlightening and accessible take on Eastern culture and tradition framed in a Western musical setting.

--Raj Manoharan

Music – Description of Andy Summers' New CD Metal Dog

Below is a link to what appears to be a product description, or press release even, of Andy Summers' new solo album Metal Dog, which is scheduled to be released on July 14.

The site looks like a fan listing for The Police and its members, Sting, Summers, and Stewart Copeland. It's even called LiSting. Get it?

Based on the editorial description, as well as images of the CD at the link to Amazon, the record might be similar in tone and concept to Summers' 1995/1996 release Synaesthesia.

We should find out in a couple of weeks' time.

--Raj Manoharan

Friday, July 3, 2015

Movies, Music – CNN Films Presents Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me

Although I’ve never been a huge fan of Glen Campbell, I acknowledge him as an undisputed, unmistakable icon. He’s always been a solid performer, even to almost the very end, which is captured on film in the extremely touching, moving, and ultimately life-affirming documentary, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, currently playing on CNN.

The picture follows Campbell and his family as they prepare for a U.S. tour to promote his album Ghost on the Canvas. However, just before they hit the road, they receive the devastating diagnosis that Campbell is suffering from the early onset of Alzheimer's disease.

What ensues is an intimate, no-holds-barred look at a man who fights with every ounce of his dignity and pride to deliver for his loving family and his devoted fans, one last time.

Now billed as the Goodbye Tour, the cross-country jaunt sees Campbell experience both triumphs and trials, with the musical road trip also serving as a journey of self-discovery.

Watching this legend struggle with this debilitating illness is humbling, and yet watching him bask in the unconditional love of his adoring audiences, even as he falters, provides an emotionally rejuvenating catharsis.

I thought viewing this film would leave me with sadness, and at times it can be disheartening. But no film, television program, or music album in recent years has brought a bigger smile to my face than this documentary has. This is the feel-good movie of the year, and definitely one of the most positive, heartwarming films of all time.

Highlights include onstage and backstage at The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, interviews with family and friends, and, of course, the music.

As of this writing, Glen Campbell is living in a memory support community, where he is receiving the care he needs, with his family close by. This documentary couldn't have come at a better time, ensuring his legacy for posterity.

Appreciate this man now, while he’s still with us, at least physically.

Do the same for your loved ones.

--Raj Manoharan

Movies, Music – The Summer of Andy Summers Kicks Off with New Solo Album and New Police DVD/Blu-ray

The Summer of Andy Summers kicks off with the July 14 release of the legendary guitarist's latest solo album as well as the DVD/Blu-ray release of a Police documentary based on his memoir.

Summers recently concluded a successful U.S. screening and speaking tour promoting Can't Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police, a documentary based on his 2006 autobiography One Train Later and chronicling his career from the 1960s psychedelic pop scene to the height of global success with The Police in the 1980s.

The film features archival footage and interviews with the band in their late 1970s/early 1980s heyday, as well as highlights of their massively popular 2007-2008 world reunion tour. The DVD and Blu-ray include audio commentary from Summers and co-producer Norman Golightly and additional short films and photographs.

Also available on the same day is Summers' new CD, intriguingly entitled Metal Dog. The album marks Summers' first solo release in over a decade and his first instrumental release in eight years. It's also his 11th original studio album, his 13th solo album, and his 21st non-Police album.

The new record might very well be Summers' first truly solo project, as he plays all the instruments himself. A free preview track, “Qualia,” is available at and

Let the Metal Dog days of summer begin!

--Raj Manoharan