Tag Archives: hendrix

192. Ananda Shankar – Ananda Shankar

Even if the sound has become a curry house cliché, there’s always been something quite joyous about the sound of a sitar. It was the dawn prayer of the Beatles going somewhere interesting on “Norwegian Wood (This bird has flown)” and something that Ravi Shankar would do a great job of introducing to Western audiences with 1968’s “The Sounds of India”.

For Shankar’s nephew Ananda, it was an invitation from Jimi Hendrix to collaborate on an album together that got him to go his own way, deciding that such an album “wouldn’t be my music”. And while we can mourn the loss of one of the greatest albums that never were, it did lead to something quite interesting.

Ananda Shankar’s eponymous album was a landmark in creating a fusion of traditional Indian classical music with a modern, rock feel. It’s best evident on storming covers of “Jumping Jack Flash”, which opens the album, or the warmer “Light my Fire”, but thanks to the healthy injection of Moog and a few good drum solos, it’s a motif that carries through.

(found a really good remix of it too).

It’s also a good landmark for ambient music. “Snow Flower” calms the mood with a pleasant floating sound, and “Sagar (The Ocean)” explores that ambience on a whole new level. The latter was also reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” for me, but whether that’s down to the wind sound effects or my own Floyd geekiness is up for debate.

“Metamorphosis”, a highlight of the album, brings the funk quite nicely, and there’s some fantastic breakbeats and Moog chords to keep things interesting. “Dance Indra” moves back to Indian traditionalism (despite the addition of rich synth), while album closer “Raghupati” combines the chanting narrative fun that his uncle pioneered with a fevered, upbeat approach.

“Ananda Shankar” takes a few listens to adapt to, and sank too fast into the background on the first few plays, but there’s a lot to discover once you get into it, and move past the stereotypes that plague musical genres like this.

I fancy a Bhuna.

182. Stephen Stills – Stephen Stills

Stephen_StillsYou know what, I’ve got a confession. I’m 183 albums into this odyssey now, and there have been some that have been and gone from my consciousness, where I actually have to look back on my review to remember what I thought of them. And there are some times where I feel like I’ve really not got my teeth into an album enough to give it a fair review.

Sometimes I feel like a bit of a fraud.

It’s a feeling that’s popped in my head a few times listening to this album. While Stephen Stills isn’t a big part of the modern music consciousness, he was 25% of Crosby Stills Nash and Young, and he was the bloke who wrote Buffalo Springfield’s “For What it’s Worth”, so he’s worthy of some attention.

And even if he wasn’t, then this album certainly is, if for no other reason than the insane list of performers who appear on it. As well as appearances from Mama Cass, Ringo Starr, Rita Coolidge, Booker T Jones and Davids Crosby and Nash, this album brings together Jimi Hendrix and Eric ‘Cunt’ Clapton together on a side of vinyl for the first and last time (your Dad’s driving rock compilations aside). On this album, dedicated to Hendrix (who died a month before its release), he appears on the fourth track, “Old Times Good Times” with some very nifty (though slightly subdued) axe mastery.

Of course, the opening track, the energetic and radio-friendly “Love the One You’re With” is his best-known offering, mixing esoteric lyrics with Latin rhythms and that always ambiguous key message – does it mean to be thankful for who you have rather than chasing horizons, or is it basically a musical justification for getting your end away when you’re on the road? Probably the latter, but then this was the early seventies, so anything goes (went?), right?

Either way, for those who’ve watched “Prometheus”, if you get the chance to shag Charlize Theron, this is a great soundtrack. Take it away Mr Idris…

The second track, “Do For the Others” is the most CSNY-esque moment of the album, while “Church” mixes gospel R&B into soft rock with some finesse. Apart from Jimi’s appearance, “Old Times Good Times” ticks along without too much drama, although it’s notable for the fact that the opening chords sound just like Kenny Rogers’ “Just Dropped in (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”.

Almost as if he was aware of getting upstaged by the previous track, Eric Clapton gives it its all in the pleasing “Go Back Home”, which gets its blues-rock mojo working. Side B begins with the smooth and romantic “Sit Yourself Down”, which is, for me at least, the high point of the album. The mood softens with the drifting “To a Flame”, before mixing folk rock with a touch of psychedelia in the enchanting “Black Queen”. Things get stranger with the upbeat “Cherokee”, which begins sounding like a theme from a 70’s cop show before busting out the sitars and jazz horns.

The final track, “We are Not Helpless” is where Stills brings out the full entourage though, with Ringo on drums, Mama Bass, Rita Coolidge, David Crosby and Graham Nash on backing vocals and Booker T Jones on the organ. If Bono had turned up I wouldn’t have been surprised. The song itself is quite gentle and even conventional, but it still feels epic with its gospel notes towards the end.

“Stephen Stills” is an album which has had its fair share of praise, and has moments of real flair and creative diversity, as well as more than a little soul. But to me, it’s still an album that feels like it’s constantly playing too quietly, that even in its more energised moments really feels raucous. But then again, I’m a fraud so what do I know?