Saturday, April 23, 2016

CD Retro (Fan) Review – The Best of George Harrison, by George Harrison

This album is both a fantastic introduction to and an efficient overview of Harrison’s early career as part of the Fab Four and as a budding solo artist.

As others have pointed out, yes, the Beatles songs included on this record are available on several Beatles collections. However, this is the only place you’ll find many if not all of Harrison’s Beatles compositions by themselves in one place, and there is nowhere better to have them than on his first greatest hits compilation.

First of all, the seven Beatles tunes here are quintessential George Harrison songs, written and performed by him with backup by his fellow Beatles. Second, their inclusion facilitates a true appreciation of Harrison’s artistic evolution from writing and performing his songs with the Beatles to writing and performing his songs with his own band.

What sets Harrison apart from the other Beatles and makes him unique as a singer-songwriter are his folksy, soul-searching compositions and his humble, earnest vocals.

As a guitarist, Harrison is very underrated and underappreciated, and aside from a couple of guitar parts played by other Beatles and Harrison’s friend Eric Clapton, the album is flush with Harrison’s intricate lead and rhythm guitar work.

The record also shows Harrison’s transition from a skillful and creative rock guitarist with the Beatles to slide guitar virtuoso, whose tight, soulful solos reinforce his melodies without being flashy or over the top.

Album highlights include Harrison Beatle classics “Something,” “Here Comes the Sun,” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (featuring Clapton on lead guitar) and early solo hits “My Sweet Lord,” “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth),” and “What Is Life.” Interestingly, “Here Comes the Sun” sounds more like Harrison’s later solo work on his own Dark Horse record label.

This is an excellent showcase of Harrison’s formative years, especially his metamorphosis from Quiet Beatle to enigmatic solo superstar.

--Raj Manoharan

Monday, April 18, 2016

Doris Roberts (1925-2016)

She was a mother, alright.

So long and farewell to one of the most famous and beloved television matriarchs of all time.

Here she comes, Frank!

--Raj Manoharan

CD Review – Ardas (Prayer), by Prabhu Nam Kaur

Pleasant vocals and authentic ethnic instrumentation bring this CD of sacred Sikh music – “Gurbani Kurtan” – to blissful fruition.

In addition to Prabhu Nam Kaur's fine voice, masterful harmonium playing, and original compositions, the album features the talents of Snatam Kaur as composer, Amar Khalsa on flute and vocals, Arjan Khalsa on guitar and mandolin, Hargobind Singh Khalsa on tabla, Ramdass Khalsa on bass, clarinet, nylon string guitar, keyboards, shaker, and vocals, Sahib Amar Khalsa on viola and vocals, Nalini Teresa Marie on udu, and Jasprit Singh on sitar.

This recording provides a cathartic experience for those interested in calming, meditative, exotic new age music.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Peggy Morgan (1950-2016)

Peggy Morgan was one half of the Hawaiian-based instrumental music duo Acoustic Ocean, two of whose albums I had the privilege of reviewing on this site.

Morgan may no longer be with us in body, but she will always be with us in spirit through the music she touched others with through her recordings, and through the love she gave to her family, friends, and loved ones such as her musical partner Bette Phelan.

I have hope and faith that she's at peace now, making sweet, beautiful, eternal music.

--Raj Manoharan

CD Review – All Roads, by Harnam

This is not your typical, meditative, transcendental, new age album. In fact, it is far from it.

Composer, guitarist, and singer Harnam follows in the hallowed tradition of the best singer-songwriters from the 1970s. Like many of the country/folk/pop/rock fusion pioneers of that era, Harnam's music is timeless. However, he does one-up many of those six-stringers with his ambidextrous talents on 8-string, 12-string, and baritone acoustic guitars.

Harnam's easy listening melodies and natural, unassuming vocals make this record accessible to anyone who likes good singing and songwriting regardless of worldview.

Harnam also layers his appealing sound with rich instrumentation from Chris Erbacher on banjo and pedal steel, James Henry on percussion, Charity Kahn on piano, Siri Kartar on banjo and pedal steel, Paul Lamb on electric bass, Daryn Rover on acoustic and electric guitars, Simrit on background vocals, Suzy Thompson on fiddle, Benjy Wertheimer on esraj, Tim White on bamboo flute, and Jake Wood on drums.

This is a fine album whether you're seeking philosophical solace, good music, or both.

--Raj Manoharan