Saturday, October 31, 2015

Al Molinaro (1919-2015)

Al Molinaro is probably best remembered for being diner owner Al Delvecchio in the classic 1970s/1980s sitcom Happy Days.

To me, however, he will always be Murray the Cop.

Many actors understandably bemoan typecasting. As decried as it is, typecasting is also the mark of performers who are so talented that they become the one major character that everyone associates them with and loves them for.

Thanks for the memories, Al.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, October 25, 2015

CD Review – Omkara (The Sound of Divine Love), by Rupam Sarmah

Authentic, traditional Indian instruments combine with jazz saxophone and acoustic guitar for a fusion of world music that is delightfully exotic and eclectic.

Composer and keyboardist Rupam Sarmah has put together an impressive ensemble of top-notch players, headlined by Grammy Award-winner Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, an innovator of the stringed veena.

Also featured are Makundra Borah on instrumentation, Pranjal Borah on flute, Subhen Chatterjee on tabla and percussion, Sayan Ganguly and Sanjay Hazarika on keyboards, Jonathan Kay on saxophone, Rocio Marron on viola, Pankaj Mishra on sarangi, Matthias Muller on acoustic guitar, Somnath Roy on ghatam, khol, and percussion, Laura Sullivan on piano, and Minakshi Borah, Amrita Bordoloi, Rosy Das, Shella Deb, Padmashri Sumitra Guha, Samhita Pujari, and Juri Sarmah on vocals.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, October 18, 2015

CD Review – The Gathering II, by Various Artists

The second edition of this compilation series presents select tracks from new age recording artists produced by Grammy Award-winning guitarist and Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman.

The album features the work of several musicians reviewed by me on this site, including Kathryn Kaye, Louis Colaiannia, Masako, Shambhu, Heidi Bryer, Fiona Joy, Ann Sweeten, Vin Downes, Isadar, and Lynn Yew Evers.

This is a fine introduction to and sampling of some of the best alternative instrumental (and vocal) music available.

--Raj Manoharan

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