The lights were out; the headphones were jammed tightly across my skull; and my eyes were shut. I had just pressed the play button on My True Story, Aaron Neville’s latest album, and instantly got a sense of déjà vu. In the early 1970s when I was still at school, I’d gone to visit a distant cousin, a guy much older than me and one that most people in the family described as “bohemian”. On the ground floor of a sprawling old colonial house in Calcutta, my cousin had a den where he met me and a couple of others. He was wearing a paint splattered pair of canvas trousers, his hair was tousled, and on his turntable was spinning Elvis Presley’s eponymous first album in mono. Blue Suede Shoes, I Got A Woman, Just Because… I still remember those songs. There was another thing. A strange, sweet smell that seemed to come from the cigarette my cousin was smoking. We were too young and naïve and had no clue then as to what he was smoking (it was, indeed, a long time back!). But we were in awe and that first exposure to Presley is still indelibly etched in my mind. Read more

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When Tom Waits and Keith Richards sing the old ballad Shenandoah for you, the only libation that I can think of as an accompaniment is Old Monk Rum. Waits, 63, and Richards, 69, have probably two of the most gravelly voices (and looks to match) in the business and their rendition of Shenandoah, a song whose exact provenance I tried to find out and wasn’t completely successful, is an indication of the shape of things to come in the form of a new album called Son of Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys. Read more

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Leaving a city that you’ve visited and liked is never a happy experience, however short your sojourn to that place might have been. You feel low and wish you’d have had some more time to spend there. And if it’s a city as vibrant and as much a blend of the old and new as Berlin is, the sadness is greater. So it wasn’t with buoyant spirits that we boarded the taxi to go to the airport that afternoon. The music playing inside the cab was soothing. It was a piano sonata. Mozart’s in A minor, and the cabbie turned around to ask us whether we wanted it changed. I looked at my only co-passenger, my eight-year-old daughter, and asked her if it was fine. Yes, she pensively nodded. Read more

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Ever since iTunes opened up its store to customers in India, it has been bliss for me. I can now buy music at very reasonable prices – songs for as low as R12 and in some cases, even full albums for a dirt cheap R30. The opening up of the iTunes Store was the best thing to have happened for Indian music lovers but some of us, especially of the grey-haired (or, no-haired) vintage, the real deal is often all about buying the album in its physical, touchable form. There is a certain something about peeling off the plastic and opening up the jewel case of a new CD that digitally downloaded albums just can’t match. Read more

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