As I write this, with a cup of coffee next to the keyboard, I have on my computer’s speakers Keller Williams playing 10 songs with minimal accompaniment—just a piano. It’s the perfect audio complement to a sunny morning in Feb when it’s not yet as hot as Delhi can get nor too chilly. Read more
It’s a 38-second clip showing four old geezers announcing and extolling the goodness of a new smartphone app and it’s so funny that I actually went over and downloaded The Rolling Stones’ 50th anniversary app. The four old geezers are, of course, Mick Jagger (69), Keith Richard (68), Charlie Watts (71) and Ronnie Wood (65). On the promotional clip, which you can watch on YouTube, the funniness is not of the comical type but one that reeks of uneasiness. Each of the Stones’ veterans gets a shot to speak and is ill at ease talking about something such as a smartphone application. Jagger kicks off the promo mentioning how the Stones app is unlike any other because it isn’t just another version of their website dumped into the app; Richard wheezes about how it is a “fifty year thing” and that it will have some “surprises”; Watts confesses that he’s never turned a computer on although Mick bought him a couple; and Wood mentions the virtues of having the “Brushes” app (which I think is a painting application and Wood, as we know, is a trained painter) on his iPhone. But all four geezers sound so unconvincing and tentative, that you can’t help but check out the Rolling Stones Official 50th Anniversary App, launched a fortnight ago. Read more
The first time I heard some jazz and instantly liked it was when at the home of a much older friend, I heard an album called Witchi-Tai-To. The year was 1976 or ‘77, I think, and I was in Calcutta, a city where the jazz scene was still vibrant with–besides an annual jazz festival and quite a large number of aficionados of the genre–several people, like my friend, who had great collections of jazz albums that were from off the beaten track. Witchi-Tai-To was an album from the Jan Garbarek-Bobo Stenson Quartet, a Scandinavian jazz band with Garbarek on tenor and soprano saxophone, Stenson on the piano, Jon Christensen on drums and Palle Danielsson on bass. Read more
Many new musicians can remind you of older (and sometimes more famous) ones. Three years ago, I’d written about the Rhode Island-based alternative folk and blues band, Deer Tick, and mentioned how uncannily Bob Dylanesque their lead singer, John McCauley sounds—so much so that a colleague after hearing them play even dubbed him ‘Baby Dylan’. But they’re not the only ones. Whenever I hear New Jersey’s rockers, The Gaslight Anthem, I’m reminded of Bruce Springsteen—and, in fact, that association is not without basis: The Gaslight Anthem are quite heavily influenced by The Boss; they’ve opened for him; and he’s played with them. More recently, I heard Charles Bradley who is known as ‘The Screaming Eagle of Soul’ and at 64 has just one album (No Time For Dreaming) to his credit. Bradley has his own style of singing funk, soul and R&B tunes but you can also distinctively discern strong influences of two legends, the late James Brown and the late Otis Redding. Then I read that Bradley began his career as a James Brown mimicker on stage before he found his own groove.
There are some things that immediately come to mind when you think of Milan. Fashion is one—everyone appears to be better dressed than you. Everyone. Food is another—if you’ve eaten Milanese risotto cooked with saffron and beef marrow or the cotoletta alla Milanese or just tasted the gorgeous gorgonzola cheese that the city boasts of, you’ll know what I mean. There are some things that probably never come to mind when you think of Milan. A blues band would be one of them. So, while listening to a recent episode of the Bandana Blues podcast, put out weekly by a maverick duo, Beardo and Spinner, I heard a great blues song that was attributed to Family Style, an Italian blues band based near Milan. I was surprised. Read more
Rarely have I known someone to be as passionate about music as was my friend Amitava. Incorrigible Deadhead and passionate lover of guitar jams, he’d drop by in office occasionally to check what I was listening to and pass me his pen drive for a top-up. I enjoyed feeding him new music; mainly because he would not only listen to the stuff I proffered but promptly provide feedback on the music as well as regularly on this column. Amitava ‘Goldie’ Guha passed away recently and I shall miss him sorely.
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
I cannot put my finger on the exact year, but sometime in the mid-1970s my musical preferences got skewed towards the genre known as psychedelic rock. Perhaps it was just a function of the then prevailing zeitgeist—after all, it wasn’t too long after Woodstock had happened (although I must confess I was too little when it actually had) and the thick odours of flower-power, psychedelia and all of that still hung heavily in the air. Also, I had a precocious habit of hanging around with friends who were a bit older than me and who were already into psychedelic bands and their preferences rubbed on to me. Read more
At the beginning of this month, The White Stripes announced that they were breaking up. I was saddened but not surprised. Jack and Meg White—the once-married duo—formed the Detroit-based band in the late 1990s and have six great full-length albums besides some live recordings and many singles to their credit. Although they already had two albums already out, the first album by The White Stripes that I heard was their third, White Blood Cells, in 2001. I liked them instantly. It was their sound: rock and roll with a blues and punk twist. Raspy, distorted guitar-work (Jack), primal drumming (Meg) and howling vocals. I have lost count of how many times I heard White Blood Cells when I first got that album. Even now, I just have to think of that album and I can hear the opening riffs of the first song, Dead Leaves and The Dirty Ground. Read more
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