CD reviews

Shirley Collins and Within Sound (1)

[by Ken Hunt, London] Folksong, English, Czech, Hungarian or any other, is all human life in a nutshell distilled, confined or liberated through song. The Sussex singer Shirley Collins’ achievement is unmatched in the annals of twentieth-century folk music anywhere. Blessed with a voice a natural as breathing, she succeeded in bottling and freeing the essence of the songs she sang. When Shirley Collins’ Within Sound appeared in 2002, the boxed retrospective treatment is a relatively new development in folk music.

11. 4. 2011 | read more...

Robin Williamson’s Journey’s Edge

[by Ken Hunt, London] Journey’s Edge is a stepping-stone, a betwixt and between work. It captures Robin Williamson poised in midair or mid-dream or -fantasy skipping from the fading psychedelic sepia of The Incredible String Band and yet to land sure-footedly on the other shore. Though nobody knew that on Journey’s Edge‘s unveiling in 1977. That only became apparent with the Merry Band of American Stonehenge later that year and A Glint At The Kindling in 1978. Journey’s Edge was Williamson’s début solo release after the splintering of the ISB in late 1974.

21. 3. 2011 | read more...

Silly – Attitude, melodicism and Ostalgie bye-bye bygones

[by Ken Hunt, London] East German rock music, nowadays known as Ost-Rock (Ost means east), has never had a champion outside the old East. Sure, Julian Cope got wiggy and witty with Krautrock in all its Can, Kraftwerk and Ohr-ishness. But aside from, say, coverage in the Hamburg-based Sounds in the 1980s and Tamara Danz (1952-1996) – and Silly’s lead singer’s fleeting appearance in the last edition of The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular MusicOst-Rock got short shrift outside its place of origin, the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Götz Hintze’s Rocklexikon der DDR (2000)…

14. 2. 2011 | read more...

Rachid Taha – Bonjour

[by TC Lejla Bin Nur, Ljubljana] Bonjour (Good day) is Rachid Taha’s eighth studio album since he started his solo path in 1990. During this time he had released at least two Best Ofs, a hefty pile of remixes, extras & vinyl for collectors and a few concert albums and projects, notably the world-wide resounding success 1, 2, 3, Soleils with Khaled and Faudel in 1998. Before all that, way back in 1980’s, he also recorded about two albums and a half with his band Carte de Sejour.

10. 2. 2010 | read more...

June Tabor and An Echo of Hooves (2004)

[by Ken Hunt, London] An Echo of Hooves represented a career milestone for the English folksinger June Tabor. In February 2004 its Hughie Graeme was named ‘Best Traditional Track’ and she received the accolade of ‘Singer of the Year’ in the BBC Radio 2 Awards. That though is transitory, foreign stuff, for her album An Echo of Hooves was a summation of decades spent learning how to work with, and work out the emotions contained in Anglo-Scottish balladry.

2. 11. 2009 | read more...

Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger’s The Paper Stage

[by Ken Hunt, London] Forty years or so ago, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger released their most recondite project, the two-volume Paper Stage. It was reconstructions of the first Elizabethan Age’s theatre for the second Elizabethan Age. The original peddlers of these more unauthorised than guerrilla playlets in song left few traces and fewer fingerprints. All that survived was the printed page. Theirs was street theatre, the equivalent of graffiti artist Banksy’s Mona Lisa with a rocket launcher, or that Banksy rat sawing a getaway hole to freedom through the pavement.

29. 7. 2009 | read more...

Desert Slide – a new chapter in Rajasthan’s age-old book of changes and musical adventures

[by Ken Hunt, London] Even by repute, people who have never been to Rajasthan and only ever saw photographs or artwork, Rajasthan is popularly viewed as a region saturated with colour. In its Great Thar Desert, soil, sand and salt lakes offer a palette of yellows, browns and reds. In its deciduous woodlands dhok and dhak – the tree known as the ‘flame of the forest’ – provide the seasonal mosaics of the forest canopy and forest floor and then there is the vibrancy of bougainvillea everywhere whether on the highways or streets. In its street markets full of chillies, mangoes, bananas and spinach, Rajasthan offers an abundance of saturated colours – and watery contrasts. Then factor in whether through raga or folk dance or mela (festival) how musically Rajasthan is affected by what is all around when musicians play.

6. 7. 2009 | read more...

Shivkumar Sharma, Brijbushan Kabra and Hariprasad Chaurasia’s The Call of the Valley III – a coda

[by Ken Hunt, London] Whilst writing the essay about the history of Call of the Valley back in those days when the internet was in its infancy and before mobile phones, it took months to obtain the right phone number for G.N. Joshi – or one that worked. The way things sometimes go, I finally made direct contact only to learn that he had died days before.

5. 6. 2009 | read more...

Shivkumar Sharma, Brijbushan Kabra and Hariprasad Chaurasia’s The Call of the Valley II

[by Ken Hunt, London] Key works that open doors to reveal unsuspected possibilities are fewer and farther between than press releases and other fictions would lead us to believe. On the basis that a little hyperbole goes a long way, glib judgements get bandied around with frightening frequency and lightning strike effect. For many people Call of the Valley opened up the skies, was a revelation. Its impact could be likened to revealing a new colour in the spectrum, for it was directly responsible for bringing Hindustani classical music – as Northern Indian classical music is known – to new audiences all around the globe. Its three soloists would go on to internationally acclaimed careers. But all that lay in the future. For countless listeners the first time they would hear the consummate musicianship of Shivkumar Sharma, Brijbushan Kabra and Hariprasad Chaurasia would be this record.

1. 6. 2009 | read more...

Shivkumar Sharma, Brijbushan Kabra and Hariprasad Chaurasia’s The Call of the Valley I

[by Ken Hunt after G.N. Joshi] Picture a hamlet, as G.N. Joshi wrote in the original sleeve notes to Call of the Valley, nestling in the shelter of a Kashmiri valley. The story begins as sunrise approaches. Guitar signals dawn’s arrival. Santoor, the very epitome of the Kashmiri soundscape, joins in to play the early morning râg Ahir Bhairav, the first movement of the suite.

Swarmandal – a zither-like instrument – ripples usher in the second movement, Nat Bhairav. The day advances. The sun begins its climb with Joshi imagining Kashmir’s scenic splendour. Set to ektāl, tāl or taal meaning a rhythmic cycle, in this case one of 12 beats, the scene takes on colour and form.

1. 6. 2009 | read more...

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