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William M. Feagin "music dealer/geek" RSS Feed (Upstate New York, USA)

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The Essential Ravi Shankar
The Essential Ravi Shankar
Offered by Centerville Recreational Products
Price: $28.99
28 used & new from $9.95

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential introduction to a master musician, May 17, 2008
Other reviewers here have noted that, if all you want is one CD of Ravi Shankar's music, this 2-CD set ought to do the trick. It also works as a good capsule introduction to Ravi-ji and his music; Disc One is a more pure distillation of Hindustani music, where Disc Two gives the listener a sampling of his collaborations with Western artists, all of whom seem to have had a good grasp on what was needed to make the collaborations work (not always the case with cross-cultural experiments).

Another bonus is that many of these tracks are not as readily available as one might like (I've yet to find a copy of the Chappaqua soundtrack anywhere), so their inclusion here is all the more welcomed. It is also helpful if one does not wish to buy every CD of Ravi-ji's music currently available; as it was, I already owned 4 or 5 of the Angel/EMI remasters (most of which are not covered by this compilation, making it, and them, more worthwhile). However, if you are as musically adventurous as I am, you'll start here and scour the world music bins of every record shop you can find to track down other Ravi Shankar albums.

Other Ravi Shankar titles I would recommend include Three Ragas (1956), Improvisations (1962; includes variations on the music he recorded as the soundtrack to the Indian film "Pather Panchali"), A Morning Raga/An Evening Raga (1968), East Meets West (1970; his collaboration with Yehudi Menuhin), and Inside the Kremlin (1988; a brilliant collaboration with classical musicians from Russia).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 14, 2008 5:10 PM PDT

Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul
Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul
Price: $26.31
38 used & new from $0.50

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic expanded, May 17, 2008
Admittedly, quite a few of the Collector's Editions (from Rhino/Warners), Deluxe Editions (from Universal) and Legacy Editions (from Sony-BMG) we've seen released lately have added little to a classic album, as they've often just rehashed the same tracks. That said, those rehashed tracks I mention are alternate takes, demos, live versions, often with a different feel from the final take you'll find on the official release, so it's often nice to see that the artist in question may not have done the same song twice the same way. Such is definitely the case with the Collector's Edition of Otis Blue.

First of all, you have the original album offered in both mono and stereo versions, and that alone can point up subtle difference in each track--frequently, the stereo mixes will have instruments or elements you may have missed in the mono mixes, and much the same can be said of the mono mixed vs. the stereo. And this is certainly true with Otis Blue; for example, the mono LP version of "I've Been Loving You Too Long (to Stop Now)" sounds like a very different take from that of the stereo LP version.
Secondly, there are often non-LP single cuts included, and that is certainly the case here--"I'm Depending on You" fits that bill, a breezy bit of fun from Otis and his always-excellent backing band. Thirdly, the alternate takes--the faster version of "Respect," recorded in 1967 (even after Aretha Franklin's version had topped the charts), certainly gives the listener the idea that Otis felt the song was worth returning to, although no one's sure exactly when or why (evidently, the master tape boxes don't offer much in the way of details).

Overall, it's a great package; indeed, the Otis Redding fan who already has all of Otis' classic recordings will not need this, as it won't add much to his collection. But for someone like me, who doesn't have them all but wants to have some Otis Redding in his collection (and indeed, any serious music fan really ought to), this set makes a great addition.

Forever Changing: The Golden Age of Elektra 1963-1973 { Various Artists }
Forever Changing: The Golden Age of Elektra 1963-1973 { Various Artists }
15 used & new from $35.98

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential listening for music geeks!, March 10, 2008
Forever Changing might be the single best various-artists label-related box set I've yet purchased (and I have several, all of them good). From the opening track (Judy Collins' recording of "Turn! Turn! Turn!" from her 1963 album, #3 [produced, incidentally, by Roger McGuinn]) to Jobriath's funky "World Without End," which closes the 5th disc and ultimately the whole set, there's really not a bum track on here.

Judy, of course, is the best-represented artist, featuring on every disc; you also have her version of Dylan's "Tomorrow Is a Long Time" on the first disc, her rocking "Hard Lovin' Loser" on the second disc, her incandescent cover of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" on disc #3, her recording of the gospel standard "Amazing Grace" on disc #4, and her non-LP single recording of Dylan's "I'll Keep It With Mine" on disc #5 (her least favourite recording, according to the notes, but you can see where Fairport Convention got their version of the song). Also well-represented are The Doors (an early version of "Moonlight Drive," "Light My Fire," "Five to One" and "Riders on the Storm"), Love ("My Little Red Book," "She Comes in Colours," "Alone Again Or" and "August"), Tim Buckley and Tom Paxton (including Paxton's best-known and best-loved song "The Last Thing on My Mind"). Along the way, you get a raft of indispensable classics from Judy Henske ("High Flyin' Bird"); Koerner, Ray & Glover ("Linin' Track"); Phil Ochs (the rousing "I Ain't Marchin' Anymore" and the achingly beautiful "Changes"); Tom Rush ("Joshua Gone Barbados" and the break-up song "No Regrets"); the MC5 ("Kick Out the Jams"); Carly Simon ("That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be" and, of course, "You're So Vain"); Harry Chapin ("Taxi"); and Bread ("Dismal Day" and "The Guitar Man"). You get deep folk tracks from Dian & The Greenbriar Boys, Bob Gibson, Fred Neil (the classic "Other Side to This Life"), the late Richard Farina (gone but not forgotten, like many other artists in this box set), Steve Noonan, David Ackles; psychedelic relics from Pat Kilroy, the Incredible String Band, Clear Light, Earth Opera (the prescient "The Red Sox Are Winning"--about 40 years too soon!--and the unsettling "Mad Lydia's Waltz"), Nico; heavy music from Stalk-Forrest Group (later to become Blue Oyster Cult), The Stooges, Goodthunder, and Queen (their storming first single "Keep Yourself Alive"); and all sorts of forgotten one-shots, many worth hearing (Dino Valente's sole Elektra single "Birdses," Oliver Smith, The Waphphle [whom not even Jac Holzman remembers], Crabby Appleton, Eric Clapton & The Powerhouse [one lone single recorded between his leaving the Bluesbreakers and forming Cream]) and some perhaps not (David Peel & The Lower East Side's rather embarrassing paean to dope, "Alphabet Song").

All in all, it's the tale of a great label's classic years, before Jac Holzman left and David Geffen took over, bringing Asylum Records with him and (unintentionally?) sidelining the main label for many years. For all the hits and misses, this set is absolutely worth having.

Sacred Games: A Novel (P.S.)
Sacred Games: A Novel (P.S.)
by Vikram Chandra
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.42
209 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crime and punishment, Bollywood-style, March 10, 2008
As a fan of Indian culture--I've loved raga music for many years and am taking the time to rediscover it along with the classical and folk musics of the Middle East and South Asia, and my wife and I have watched many a Bollywood film together thanks to Netflix rentals--I've come to expect Indian entertainment to be long, rambling, but ultimately satisfying. Vikram Chandra's "Sacred Games" is certainly no exception; along the way, you get a lesson in Hindi and other languages of the Subcontinent that Berlitz doesn't offer (where else would you learn how to curse fluently in Hindi, whilst also picking up interesting lines from songs featured in classic Bollywood films?).

This novel tells the tales of Sartaj Singh, a Sikh police officer who lives a modest existence, and Ganesh Gaitonde, a Hindu crime don who lives life to excess, only to have it become his undoing. Singh has followed in the footsteps of his beloved Papa-ji, fighting crime in 21st-Century Mumbai (Bombay), content--albeit reluctantly so--to live in the shadow of his superiors, including Chief Parulkar; he is divorced from Megha, and childless, and he works side-by-side with officers Katekar and Kamble (the former a seasoned professional, the latter an impulsive young buck). Gaitonde has risen from a small-time wiseguy ("bhai"), through a series of missteps, personal losses and gains and a lot of acquired business savvy, to a feared and respected crime boss with a finger on the pulse of India's political life at home and abroad. When they meet, Gaitonde has barricaded himself in a nuclear-fallout shelter which, we learn eventually, is the result of increasing paranoia partly instilled in him by his "Guru-ji," one Shridar Shukla. A stand-off ensues, and when Singh finally gets inside the shelter, he and Katekar find Gaitonde dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and an unknown woman, dead on the floor, also shot. During the standoff, Gaitonde begins to enlighten Sartaj Singh about his (Gaitonde's) rise--ensuing alternating chapters fill out the story, wherein we learn the identity of the dead woman and her story, how she came to be involved with Gaitonde. Other chapters give us a look into the supporting characters in the book.

I particularly liked the penultimate chapter, "Two Deaths, in Cities Far From Home," which ties up one subplot involving a murder in one low-rent housing block ("basti") and another relating to Sartaj's mother, Prabhjhot Kaur ("Nikki"), with a surprise twist. (Nikki's chapter takes us back to the violent days of Indian Independence and Partition, which occurred in 1947.) All of the characters, we learn, relate in one way or another to each other, and the ending, while long in coming (947 pages!), is ultimately satisfying. It's a fairly realistic ending, too, which is an element of Bollywood cinema that this book mirrors. For my part, I could easily picture Aamir Khan as Sartaj Singh and Shah Rukh Khan as Ganesh Gaitonde; it would take a skilled Hollywood director to make it comprehensible to American audiences, and would need to have the dialogue in Hindi (Mel Gibson, are you listening?), but I think it would be doable.

In the meantime, read this book. One critic says that, when it's finished, you feel as if you've been ejected from a world you've come to be resident in, and I'll admit that's not so far off at all.

Indipop Retrospective
Indipop Retrospective
24 used & new from $0.32

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A dozen of Sheila's best, October 8, 2007
This review is from: Indipop Retrospective (Audio CD)
I first discovered Sheila Chandra through her trilogy of Realworld albums--Weaving My Ancestors' Voices, The Zen Kiss, and ABoneCroneDrone. Those albums feature Sheila's voice with only the most nominal accompaniment throughout; her singing is quite different from that of most Indian female singers that you'll hear if you watch a Bollywood film or listen to a soundtrack album or compilation of Bollywood film music. Most of those women have high-pitched voices and sound as if they're singing through a perpetual smile; in fact, you can see the happy, hopeful expressions during the dance numbers.

Sheila Chandra's voice is lower in pitch, more alto or even mezzo-soprano than the near falsetto voices you hear singing on the aformentioned Bollywood tunes. Her music has a much more serious tone to it--darker, more artful, more experimental even. And where the Realworld tracks feature nominal backing, here she works with more instrumentation, a mix of Eastern (notably sitar and tablas) and Western (guitars, bass, keyboards) that works better than you might think from my description.

Of these 12 tracks, 6 were recorded in 1984-85 and appeared on her first 4 albums--"Prema, Shanti, Dharma, Satya" and "Village Girl" are from Out on My Own; "Quiet 3" and "Quiet 9" are from Quiet (which, like the later ABoneCroneDrone, worked from a unified concept and involved only wordless vocalisation); "Om Shanti Om" is from The Struggle; and "Nada Brahma (excerpt)" is a piece of the 27-minute title cut to (what else?) Nada Brahma, her last album for five years as she sought a new direction for her music. She found that new direction with Roots and Wings, which is represented here by the dazzling "Lament of McCrimmon/Song of the Banshee" (Chandra takes on Celtic airs in a move she would replicate on the first two Realworld albums--her version of "A Sailor's Life" that appears on The Zen Kiss is second only to Fairport Convention's version from their Unhalfbricking album, of which Chandra would later say the band had truly captured the feel of a raga), "One" and "Mecca," a mesmerising homage to the sacred journey undertaken by all Muslims at least once in their lifetimes. (And as a side comment, I'd like to add that the cover photo of Roots and Wings caused me to fall in love with Chandra--it's one of the most beautiful photos of her, as she bears the sober, high-born aspect of a raja's wife. Chandra is one of the best arguments for the beauty of South Asian women.)
She left Indipop behind at that point for Realworld, returning in 2001 for This Sentence is True (The Previous Sentence is False), which is represented by two tracks, "This" and "Mien." A much darker album than the other Indipop recordings, it features a good deal more experimentation (note the backwards vocal tracks on "Mien," a bit of a nightmarish soundscape) than anything she'd done before, and it was recorded following her recovery from a throat ailment. It was also the last studio album to appear bearing her name, and--apart from a track recorded for the second "Lord of the Rings" film--the last recordings she's issued since. The world awaits your return to the studio, Sheila; may it not be delayed much further!

In the meantime, sample this compilation of Chandra's best work, and let it lead you on to higher musical aspirations; Sheila Chandra's voice is music we should all aspire to enjoying.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination
Tales of Mystery and Imagination
Price: $23.15
43 used & new from $11.76

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece reimagined..., September 17, 2007
The very concept might be daunting to most musicians...but then, Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson aren't (and never were) most musicians. For a first effort from such an outfit, they don't come much better or more ambitious than Tales of Mystery & Imagination. Putting works of literature to music is a task not everyone is up to--Camel attempted something like this with Paul Gallico's novel "The Snow Goose," but their work was entirely instrumental (and gave the record company fits for that very reason, although it has truly stood the test of time). Here, the APP adapt the words of these works as lyrics; we hear Alan Parsons through Vocoder on "The Raven" along with Leonard Whiting (actor best known for his role as Romeo in Franco Zeffirelli's filmed version of "Romeo and Juliet" from 1968) delivering that poem detailing the events of a "midnight dark and dreary." We get Arthur Brown's ("Fire," his big from 1968) tortured delivery of "The Tell-Tale Heart," and the quieter (yet no less tortured) John Miles on the always-chilling "The Cask of Amontillado." "The Fall of the House of Usher" is the true tour de force here, a genuinely scary piece of music. Both that track and the album opener "A Dream Within a Dream" are plenty chilling even without Orson Welles' narrative on the original 1976 album, but Welles' narrative adds something that is undeniably dramatic and certainly adds to the atmosphere on the 1987 remix.

Add here the 8 bonus tracks--4 on each disc--that give some insights into the creative process behind the album, and you've got a Deluxe Edition truly worthy of that appellation. Highly recommended.

Akira Kurosawa's Dreams
Akira Kurosawa's Dreams
DVD ~ Akira Terao
Offered by Solo Enterprises
Price: $35.00
46 used & new from $3.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some of Kurosawa's best late-period work, August 20, 2007
This review is from: Akira Kurosawa's Dreams (DVD)
Late in his life and career, Akira Kurosawa, whose star might have faded altogether were it not for the intervention of George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola (both ardent fans), gained a new audience and a new respect with a series of visually stunning colour films. From 1975's saving grace "Dersu Uzala" to 1980's stunning "Kagemusha," 1985's harrowing "Ran", we arrived at this gem in 1990. Though I've long been a Kurosawa fan--starting with "Kagemusha"--I somehow missed this one at the time, perhaps because the concept just didn't grab me.

17 years later and a recent rental through Netflix, I'm sorry I blew this one off before. Other reviewers here have complained of the slowness of Kurosawa's work, long waits for any action. Sorry it's not some bit of Jackie Chan or Jet Li chop-socky, guys; this is true cinematic art, which requires patience and tenacity (both of which are ultimately rewarded). You want action, watch the "Die Hard" movies. You want art, this is where you need to be.

These eight segments are some of the most colourfully vivid Kurosawa ever committed to celluloid--one of my favourite moments is in the first segment, right at the end where the little boy stands in the field of flowers under the rainbow and the mountains. Nature's blooms in all their glory make up some of the most beautiful scenery anyone could photograph, and for Kurosawa's direction, that goes double. Correspondingly, the sequence with the dead soldiers' souls addressing their still-living commander in the tunnel in the mountains is dark and grim, echoing the commander's state of mind at being confronted by old ghosts who are unable to accept that they are, in fact, dead and are trying to go home again. "Crows" brings Van Gogh's art to life brilliantly (and significantly, includes one of only two examples in Kurosawa's body of work to feature dialogue not in Japanese--"Dersu Uzala" was Russian, this sequence features spoken French and English--and Van Gogh himself is played unfailingly by Martin Scorsese); "Mount Fuji in Red" is genuinely frightening, the scenario of all Japan's nuclear reactors exploding at once the stuff of nightmares, as well as the following sequence with the mutant sunflowers and the horned demon-men whose punishment is to never die but suffer eternally. The final sequence, "The Village of the Watermills," brings it all together with its lush greenery, the philosophical old man, and the joyous funeral procession--its moral, to remember to respect nature, tradition, and live in peace with your fellow man.

A gorgeous masterpiece.

Harakiri (The Criterion Collection)
Harakiri (The Criterion Collection)
DVD ~ Tatsuya Nakadai
Offered by newbury_comics
Price: $25.75
37 used & new from $14.33

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easily the equal of Kurosawa's best, August 4, 2007
This film was released around the same time (1962) as Kurosawa's "Sanjuro," the sequel to "Yojimbo" from the previous year. Being a Kurosawa fan from way back and wishing to see more of his classic films, Netflix recommended this one to me as well, so I gave it a whirl.

I'm glad to say I was not disappointed in the least. While Kobayashi's directorial methods are different from Kurosawa's, he ultimately delivers a payoff every bit as dramatic and satisfying as those Kurosawa was known to deliver. "Hara-Kiri" is ultimately heartbreaking and, like Kurosawa, Kobayashi does not shy away from showing the darker aspects of feudal Japan. Tatsuya Nakadai (who has also worked extensively with Akira Kurosawa on such films as "Throne of Blood," "Kagemusha" and "Ran") plays a middle-aged samurai in the early Tokugawa period who is down on his luck and offers himself to the house of a powerful shogun to commit ritual suicide in the only honourable manner left to thousands of dispossessed samurai of the time. The shogun lord doubts his intention, as apparently many other samurai have come before him seeking a handout, and tells him as much. He soon finds out that his son-in-law, a younger warrior, came seeking the same destiny some time earlier; what follows is a wrenching look at desperation and revenge. Highly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 8, 2007 10:22 AM PDT

Geronimo's Cadillac
Geronimo's Cadillac
17 used & new from $28.96

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great beginning for Murphey, July 10, 2007
This review is from: Geronimo's Cadillac (Audio CD)
I honestly did not know "Geronimo's Cadillac" was his song; I first heard it from Bill Miller on his Spirit Songs: The Best of anthology CD. Now I feel like I want to hear every version I can find to see how they compare to MMM's original. This song earned him an honorary membership in the Sioux Nation for its pointed commentary on the treatment of the Indian.

The album, 12 tracks, is a true classic of country-rock, but unfortunately was ignored in the face of higher-visibility records like the Flying Burrito Brothers' Gilded Palace of Sin, the first two Eagles albums, and Poco's output for Epic (those records eclipsed themselves by other bands and their records). It's a limited edition, just 5000 copies, from Hip-O Select, and the packaging is lovely; a miniature gatefold LP jacket, all of the credits and artwork from the original, and even the CD itself gets an inner sleeve, as well as A&M's label design from the mid '70s. There's really not a bad track on this one, and I highly recommend you pick it up before it goes out of print. (Hip-O Select is Universal's answer to Rhino Handmade, reissuing all sorts of neat recordings that may no longer be available once the limited run is sold out.)
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 6, 2012 1:56 PM PST

Jack Orion
Jack Orion
Offered by skyvo-direct-usa
Price: $18.92
21 used & new from $5.72

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic, raw Bert, May 1, 2007
This review is from: Jack Orion (Audio CD)
OK, granted, Bert's vocals on the title cut are a bit uneven--but that's the great thing about traditional folk music. The little mistakes don't seem entirely out of place, and admittedly, "Jack Orion" is one of those epic songs that require a great feat of memory to keep all the lyrics straight (or a handy lyric sheet in front of you) during a performance. Never has Jansch seemed quite so real as he does here.

These eight tracks are classic performances, and quite obviously done live--there are no overdubs, just Bert, his guitar, banjo and voice, with backing from John Renbourn on guitar. It's easy to see why Jimmy Page nicked the melody from "Blackwaterside" for "Black Mountain Side," as Bert really nails the Irish ballad flat. And I'll agree, his version of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" resembles no other version of the song recorded to date--wonder what Ewan MacColl thought of it? Lack of polish aside (I think of Bert's "Needle of Death" from 1965 for an example of a more professional-sounding track, particularly from the Jansch oeuvre), Jack Orion is a real delight.

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