Salt Rain
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2001
This album, the debut of Joi's Susheela Raman, was recently nominated for the Mercury Award 2001, Britain's foremost reward to new artists with distinct creative ability. She was beaten by PJ Harvey's new set, but nevertheless, it brought to the attention of Europe the talents of a brilliant new songstress.
'Salt Rain' is by far one of the best fusion albums I have heard. I always thought that only Kila and Afro Celt Sound System knew how to make a good record, and when I first heard of Joi through Real World, I was a little skeptical. On those early records, Susheela stands out, but no one could predict that a solo career would bring so much promise to the world of new age music.
That said, Susheela's work here should be compared to Auroville's Nadaka, as well as M. S. Subbalakshmi, and Dead Can Dance. While she no doubt uses these influences in her vocal style and song structure, she is very much an independent and original artist. I thoroughly enjoyed this album. The first time I really listened to it was on headphones, which I thought was the proper method to appreciate a work of this sort.
Strangely enough, Susheela's more interesting moments come when she thoroughly bungles up the lyrical content of a song. You must remember that this album is a celebration of the singer as an Indian. The tracks are sung in Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and Sanskrit. The ones in Sanskrit work best, but the Tamil tracks are inexplicable. While her diction is less than flattering on these tracks, it does lend the songs a certain listenability - more so because all the words are phonetically reproduced in English in the liner notes.
I think Susheela lost out on the Mercury because the album is far too experimental for the common listener. PJ Harvey, who I think is the poor-man's Fiona Apple, had a great record last year, but its nothing as groundbreaking and revolutionary as 'Salt Rain'. There are a few songs here in English, but to be honest, they are the least compelling of the set. Susheela scores best when shes singing in Indian languages.
Of all the tracks, I personally connected with 'Mamavatu'. This song reminded me of attending a Hindu temple in Thanjavur, South India, when I was a child over ten years ago. I haven't heard a song so deeply capture the beauty and spirit of Southern India the way this song does. The last time I heard something like this was on 'Nama Shivaya' by Nadaka, but you can only get that one on the limited French Edition of 'Origines'.
Susheela's record label has done us a huge service by releasing this album with all the respect a record of this magnitude deserves. All the musicians are given a page with their picture, and Susheela herself appears very briefly on the painted page. The album booklet is thorough, informative, and a classy production. Lisa Gerrard would do well to learn from Raman's mastery of putting together a debut album package.
Unfortunately, this record is not being heard of in America. In France, its a consistent top seller, and its always near the top of the British new age charts. Pity, because the US always misses out on the best musicians (Vanessa Paradis, Axelle Red, The Sealand Poets, All Saints) in favor of lesser, more vapid talent (Spears, Aguilera, Timberlake). Also, with the new success of Afro Celt Sound System in America, one would think that Raman would leap up the charts as well. Well, she deserves to. If theres one new age or classical album you intend purchasing this year, let it be this one.
Highly recommended.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2002
Susheela Raman blends Western blues, Eastern chanting, and a little soul-searching into this uplifting work of art. Salt Rain will soothe you like a long lazy Saturday morning. Expect to be surprised, haunted, enchanted, and addicted!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 30, 2002
If youre looking for some of the smoothest music you could listen to .This is it.Soulful,beautifully constructed songs backed by superb musicians from all points of the globe all gel together for some rare quality listening.Put this on top of your buy list.Personally I'm just hanging out for for her next release.Oh, and don't worry about not understanding most of the lyrics because it simply doesn't matter.Her voice just carries it off.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2001
Former Joi singer Susheela Raman's debut outing was short-listed for the Mercury Prize in the UK. It is an interesting an enjoyable album - but be forewarned it is much closer to Sheila Chandra than Joi. Raman's is an exceptionally rich voice. Instrumental backing mostly low-key and acousticky (guitar, cello, bass, and percussion with clarinets, electric pianos, trap drums, and snoring (?!) occasionally joining the mix). Opening cut "Ganapati," which includes trap drums and guitarist Sam Mills steps out a bit more than elsewhere on the record, sounds a bit like the Abercrombie-Holland-DeJohnette Gateway trio meets South Asia. Indeed, the traditional Indian songs tend to work better than the originals in part because they have stronger melodies and in part because I can't understand the lyrics so the vocals just sort of wash over me. Indian lyrics translated into English in the CD booklet if you're really interested. Really to bad that this disk hasn't received more attention in the US - certainly deserves more.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2001
This is absolutely the most amazing cd. Susheela Raman's voice is like honey- smooth, sweet, rich, and sticks with you. She is easily as much a jazz vocalist as a world musician. If you are a world music fan or a jazz fan, you absolutely MUST BUY this cd. Even if you are not usually a fan of world music, this cd will change that. It is at the same time incredibly sensual and spiritually soothing, but never, ever will it put you to sleep! Allow yourself only one listen and you will fall under its spell.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2001
What an indian woman with a sultry Sadesque sex appeal and a shimmering voice that Bollywood hasn't discovered? Defying easy classifications this debut album surprises and enthralls.At times folklike and playful,emploring and fecund. Susheela advocates a revolution of the soul in "Woman" She's a tornado intelligently destroying myths about the female voice, not some mild new age panacea for diasporic Desis lost in the web of identity searching. "Bolo Bolo" she pleads yearningly on a track in praise of Shiva. In "Kamakshi" I felt I could dive into her dark eyes and take pleasure in her dark raga. Trip along to the exquisite dance of acoustic guitar played by her collaborator Sam Mills underpinning her RAAG'n Roll. The texture of this album is deep Tamil with a splash of Jazz and mesmirising african riffs. Susheela Raman is a force to be reckoned with: Traditional carnatic vocal training sculpting a musical ambience that is timeless in its masala.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2002
Thanks to browsing and your recommendations, I found my way to this sensual, exotic, rhythmic and unique "world" music. Her voice is wonderful. My only minor complaint is that I would like to hear more range both of voice and material, but the groove is right on and hits the right spot.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2004
i have about 12 albums where if even one track is scratched i immediately buy another of the same. this is without a shadow of a doubt, one of those twelve.
salt rain is very ambient, completely relaxing but most of all has the ability to 100% please you when you're on your own listening to it but also not be too invasive if you need to focus on something else or if you're chilling with your mates or whatever. another great thing about this album is you won't get tired of it, it's utterly timeless, you'll still be playing it in fifty years time.
the components that make this album so beautiful is the vunerable yet clear-cut voice of susheela raman, the sexy and seductive rhythms and beats, the clearly defined yet soft melodies that carry the songs through and the haunting lyrics of the songs written english. as for the ones sung in arabic (i think that's the language that she's singing in), they are also truly beautiful and strangely enough it is easy to grasp the tones reflected off the songs due to all the other components especially her voice.
my only criticism of the album is that it has left me needing more of this kind of music which would not be a problem if i knew where to find it but i don't...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2008
This is quite a good fusion release in general terms, one that is likely to appeal to a broad spectrum of international audiences with its smooth production and classy musicianship. As many have noted already, the English tracks lack the power and beauty of the more traditional songs. Apart from the fact that many of the non-English songs are hand-picked gems from the large treasure troves of Carnatic classical music, it must be said that they have been arranged in a tasteful and appealing manner. But what Susheela gains from all of this, she loses through some truly atrocious pronunciations of the lyrics in Indian languages. Diction will obviously mean nothing to those not familiar with the original classical pieces, but it is appalling that when someone like Jon B Higgins can painstakingly produce the perfect Carnatic diction, Susheela Raman, with an actual direct Indian connection, cannot (or perhaps would not care to)

4 for the music , -1 for diction
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2001
As the reviewer said... "Devastatingly Beautiful". I don't think I could have said it better. Is there anything more exciting in music than the (tasteful and original) mixing of different styles, from different cultures? Salt Rain is just that - a lush tapistry of sounds, textures and flavors that will engulf the listener from the first tune to the last. Outstanding vocals backed up by outstanding musicianship. WOW!
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