Upon hearing from my friend Hemant that he was listening to a lot of Walter Trout, I rummaged in my hard drives and CD shelves to bring out my old copies of albums by one of the most fret-searing blues guitarists that I’ve heard. I hadn’t heard Trout in a long time. And what came up first was the two-disc live album from 2000, Live Trout, on which Trout plays with his band The Free Radicals (the band’s now just called Walter Trout). Read more

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My daughter, about to be eight, has an earworm. You know, a piece of music that seems stuck in your ear so seemingly permanently that you just couldn’t get it out. It’s a song that she hums, sings and dances with vigorously even though it’s not being played anywhere. And I’m happy. Delighted, actually, because the song happens to be Lonely Boy by The Black Keys. Actually, the duo that makes up The Black Keys may also seem like an earworm for Download Central, in case you are one of those readers who for some strange reason follows this column fairly regularly—I don’t know how many times I have written about them, obsessively, compulsively and, perhaps also, maniacally.
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There is something about Les Claypool that makes you instantly become very fond of him. It could be his voice—it sounds slightly nasal and strangely repressed and yet it is very boyish; it reminds me vaguely of the voice that a certain Indian industry lobby group’s former boss used to have except that the latter did not sing and when he spoke he always managed to make you feel mildly irritated. Or, it could be, and very likely is, Claypool’s almost other-wordly virtuosity with the electric bass guitar. Claypool slaps and strums and taps his guitar, creating a trademark bass sound that no matter which band he is playing with makes him sound like the lead player.
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I think it was in Mumbai where I was living in 1996 that a friend slipped me a CD by Phish, a band that I’d heard of but had never heard. “Great stuff for former Deadheads,” he said. The album was Rift and its cover showed a man lying in bed diagonally, which I later realised was the depiction of one of the songs, Lengthwise, which features on the album. Read more

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After being rudely jolted by my latest credit card bill, I decided last week to put a stop to random purchases of music on the Internet. Buying on the web – especially when you’re buying downloads in mp3 or other digital formats – can become an addiction and god help you if you succumb to that. I looked at the entries on my credit card statement and wondered whether I was hurtling towards that kind of hell. So, I took the extreme step of cold turkey-ing my way out of any possibility of getting into such a trap. I would stop buying music off the Net, at least for a week, I told myself, and try to get my fix without spending a paisa. Of course, there was a caveat: I’d have to scrupulously ensure that every free download that found a place on my hard drive was kosher, i.e. 100 per cent legal. Read more

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I don’t know if it happens to you but every so often I go through these fairly extended phases when I’m listening to not much else than one band or one musician almost all the time. When I first discovered The National, the Brooklyn band that is hitting the headlines right now, I became a serial listener of their albums, all five of them, which were in heavy rotation on my iPod for more than a month. Through the years I’ve had that kind of infatuation with many a band. There was a Rolling Stones phase; a (late-blooming) Morrissey phase; a (very prolonged) Radiohead phase, which roughly, but not accidentally, coincided with a very prolonged low period in my personal life; a fairly long Phish phase, which quite fittingly overlapped with a very happy period in my aforementioned personal life; and, of course I’ve mentioned this before, a hugely extended Grateful Dead period. Read more

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Pink Floyd released The Dark Side of the Moon in 1973 and it became an instant hit, selling 45 million copies and remaining on the Billboard charts for 741 weeks, which is a record that is still unbroken. I don’t know how many million people have tripped on Dark Side over the past 37 years. I know I did back in the mid-1970s. And although I don’t really like Pink Floyd very much (except maybe for 1967’s The Piper At The Gates of Dawn, the only album released while the band was still helmed by Syd Barrett), it was de rigueur in my high school days (yes, yes, in the 1970s) to own a copy of the album, which, incidentally, I still do—on vinyl, on cassette and on CD. It’s a different matter that I can’t recall when was the last time I took any of these out and played them. Read more

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The first time I went to New Orleans, it was a short, unsatisfying visit. This was long before Hurricane Katrina devastated the city and a few months before 9/11 had even happened. But, it was bang in the middle of Mardi Gras, when the city gets caught up in a frenzy of activity and a throng of tourists. I was there to attend a conference for three days and the little free time that I got in the evenings to explore the city wasn’t enough. Yet, in the madness of Mardi Gras I got a taste of a city that I instantly decided that I had to come back to. Read more

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If nobody tells you who was playing or you don’t get to see the name of the album or the band, this gem from 1972 could sound like a secret album by none other than Jimi Hendrix. The same trademark guitar (fuzzy, distorted, explosive and wailing) and singing style (blues, R&B and soul-influenced but oh, so unique). Legions of rock musicians have tried to imitate Hendrix but no one I’ve heard has sounded as hair-raisingly close as this album does. I got a rock aficionado friend to do blind tasting, playing the album for him and then asking him who he thought was the musician. “Hendrix is singing, of course,” he said confidently, “but the guitar sounds a bit different. Are there two guitars?” Then, as we moved to the second and the third tracks, he sat back with a smile and said, “Hendrix. But what album is this?” Read more

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I hadn’t really heard the music of Delhi’s popular rock band, Them Clones, before getting a copy of their debut album, love. hate. heroes (EMI, Rs 195). One reason for not having heard them was, of course, the fact that although Them Clones have been a hot act on the gig circuit, I haven’t been to a rock concert in many years, preferring the infinitely more sedentary option of listening to music via downloads and most typically on my mp3 players with the phones stuck deep into my ear canals.
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