If I were to say that Let It Be is an album you’ve probably never heard, I’d instantly be the recipient of tons of bricks and a good measure of ridicule. Who hasn’t heard Let It Be, the last studio album released in 1970 by The Beatles after the legendary band decided to break up? Read more
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Quite obviously Download Central is not a huge fan of swing era singers such as Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin and even less than that of more contemporary crooners such as Michael Bublé or Jamie Cullum. Easy listening stuff doesn’t really feature here much. But when my friend Luis spoke about his friend Frederico’s gig the next evening, I readily agreed. We were in Lisbon, enjoying the Portuguese capital’s mild winter, the warmth of its people and its roller-coaster roads with history peeking out from almost every nook and corner.
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So many great albums have dropped in the past year that I don’t know how to even make a list of the ones that I liked. How many can I list? Fifty? Sixty? More? Music blogs and magazines have already put out their top albums of 2013 lists. Some, such as Rolling Stone, have listed 50; NPR has 100 favourite songs and 50 favourite records; PopMatters lists 75 best albums of 2013; and many others have lists for every genre (tip: if you want to get a smattering of what was happening in metal last year, do check out Stereogum’s top 50 in that loud genre; I was happy when I took a peek there to see the only metal album of last year that I bought, Deafheaven’s Sunbather, was No.1). Read more
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Like most of my friends, I heard my first Jimi Hendrix album after the legendary guitarist had died. Not surprising, because Hendrix died in 1970 and when he lived, he’d just four albums to his credit. I think the first Hendrix album that I got to listen to was Are You Experienced, which released in 1967, and had memorable songs such as Foxy Lady, Fire, Manic Depression and so on. Hendrix’s guitar, when you first heard it (and it was already the mid-1970s when I experienced Hendrix, at least five years after he died at 27) left an indelible mark. His unconventional use of the wah-wah pedal and amplifier feedback distortions were unlike anything that I’d heard before. Read more

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My playlist got a little weird last week. It all began with a version of Paint it Black, the Stones’ song from 1966. The version, a cover, was stunning: slower and with none of the original lyrics. There was an Afro-beat and a funky feel to it, replete with congas and stuff. It was rather good. Instead of the original lyrics, the band covering it occasionally chanted “Paint it black”, pronouncing black as ‘Blaak’. I got curious and found out that the cover version was by a band, or rather, a collective, called Africa who put out just one album in 1968 called Music From Lil Brown. I later found that that Music from Lil Brown was an African-American response to Music From Big Pink, the debut album from The Band, which, of course, is the Canadian-American band that got fame because it was Bob Dylan’s back-up band but which on its own was easily one of the best rock bands that I’ve heard. Read more

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A couple of weeks back, I listed five albums that stood out for me in 2012, five that I would certainly take with me into the next year. All five—Sigur Ros’s Valtari, Patti Smith’s Banga, Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, Japandroids’ Celebration Rock, and Dr. John’s Locked Down—are doing heavy-duty shifts on my playlists and, I’m quite sure, shall continue to do so for a bit. But if I look back again at 2012, there are a few albums that I wish I’d spent more time with. Some of them are gems that are sitting there to be discovered. Read more

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You don’t realise how talented a guitarist and bluesman the young Texan, Gary Clark Jr., is till you are into the second song on his first major label album, Blak and Blue. That’s when you see the way he can wield the axe. That’s also when you begin realising why many people compare him to Jimi Hendrix. Clark can make his guitar scream and shriek and do things that take you back to the golden era of blues based guitar rock. He’s also the one of the few contemporary African American blues guitarists to have created a ripple. Most of those in the new wave of great blues guitarists have been white—at least my favourites are (Joe Bonamassa, Derek Trucks, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jack White, Dan Auerbach and so on). Read more

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Some bands you can only enjoy listening to them live. I’ve been listening to the Athens (Georgia) based American band, Of Montreal, for a while now. They have been around since the late 1990s and have nearly a dozen studio albums out. Their music is difficult to classify—and driven by frontman, singer and guitarist Kevin Barnes, they have fused and hopped genres as widely disparate as catchy indie pop, glam rock, experimental and psychedelic rock and deeply brooding lo-fi music. That last kind of music was what characterised Of Montreal’s 2007 album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, a dark and very personal kind of work. I don’t know whether I was fortunate or otherwise that Hissing Fauna was the first album by the band that came my way. Read more

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Every time I listen to Baba O’ Riley, The Who’s marvellous song off their Who’s Next album, I simply have to crank up the volume to as high as my ears can take. Always. Ever since I first heard that album in the early 1970s with its cheeky cover photograph of members of the band having just peed on a huge concrete piling, when Baba O’ Riley comes on, it just has to be full on—the highest volume level that I can manage. Attribute it to the violin solo on the song. Apparently, putting the violin solo into that Pete Townshend-composed song was the idea of the late Keith Moon, The Who’s pretty mad drummer. It was a great idea because that solo is brilliant and one that begs you to turn the volume knob or your iPod touch wheel or whatever works the loudness on the device that you get your fix on up high. Read more

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There are some musicians that you want to kick yourself for not discovering earlier. And the desire to plant the sole of your shoe firmly on your own behind is intensified if the musician happened to have been right under your nose and yet you didn’t notice. Sugar Blue is one such musician that I wish I’d discovered much earlier than I did, which happened to be just a couple of weeks back. Sugar Blue plays the harmonica. In fact, he is dizzyingly good at it. But more about him in just a minute. Read more

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