CAN’T LET GO and SEARCHING FOR MY LOVE by ROBERT PLANT and ALISON KRAUSS.
Two immensely talented artists, veritable legends, make the purpose of these collaborations sweeter and instantly accessible.
A softness, rhythmic pulse dominate SEARCHING FOR MY LOVE and CAN’T LET GO respectively. I say it’s been a reward for me ever since I heard them at the very beginning of 2022. The same genial charm will be generated for discerning listeners.
MOHABBAT by AROOJ AFTAB.
A subcontinental artist who made waves by sticking to her mother tongue Urdu and reviving the essence of ghazals in pure earnestness, while based in Brooklyn, sure makes a positive case for global consciousness that breaks through language barriers.
Mohabbat by Arooj Aftab is a melodic delight, with the ripple of the guitars and her haunting vocals, making it a treasure. There’s a bittersweet trajectory here associated with love and its emotional pangs. It immerses us.
Three cheers also because her album VULTURE PRINCE is up for a Global Music Album Grammy while she has made it among the finalists for Best New Artist. Our fingers are crossed. It means so much when meaningful music is rendered in a language we grasp and is then taken to the world. Ms. Aftab has literally bridged borders in that sense.
BACKGROUND MUSIC by MAREN MORRIS.
Some of my favourite artists have a penchant for hardly compromising with their quality of music. Maren Morris falls in that prized niche.
BACKGROUND MUSIC is a mellow heartwarmer, full of empathy for the way success is ultimately fleeting and the real triumph is when our partners hold on to commitments made in the name of love and trust. I love that about it. Also the melody and Morris’ vocal ease is absolutely admirable and never divergent from each other.
KING by FLORENCE+THE MACHINE.
A slow burn is what KING finds Florence Welch and her excellent band providing us with. As also more than a share of honest truth. “I’m no mother/ I’m no bride/ I’m King”, these lines effectively tear down gender roles while probably playing with the skewed notion of a powerful, creative woman jostling for space in a man’s world in the titular refrain.
Then the simmer in the guitars and drums get more dominant and Florence lets her voice spread its range and layers. From a whisper to a full-throated display of freedom in confession, she wins us over.
SUMMER OF SOUL(OR WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED) ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK.
A 50 year old concert film has been revived gloriously courtesy this classic Questlove documentary feature. It then makes the force of the music rescued contemporary and all-pervasive, in no small measure owing to the message of racial integrity involved in the performances.
So behold the electricity in Nina Simone’s rendition of a poem ARE YOU READY? or her dissection of race relations informing every aspect of day to day social and civic life in BACKLASH BLUES.
The Staples Singers then take the mantle on IT’S BEEN A CHANGE, putting up an united familial front with effortless charm. Mavis Staples further reaches up to heaven with none other than Mahalia Jackson on an improvised version of the gospel classic PRECIOUS LORD, TAKE MY HAND. I’ve heard so many takes on this standard over the years, from the original version by Mahalia Jackson herself and then by the legendary Aretha Franklin. Thank God that I gave myself the chance to explore their music since the last many years; as listening to and viewing such an explosive live performance adds real grace to the overall experience. A true blue spiritual catharsis is occasioned by it.
I also loved the faster, funky version of the Marvin Gaye superhit I HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE by none other than Gladys Knight and The Pips. It just makes your body respond in quick earnest.
Finally, I discovered the magic of THE 5TH DIMENSION for the first time as they gave the ballad AQUARIUS a real sheen while letting the spirit rise on LET THE SUNSHINE IN.
These are just a few among the overall wizardry on display in the film. So make an exception and listen to the original soundtrack of SUMMER OF SOUL. You will be instantly rewarded.
HALL OF FAME
TAPESTRY by CAROLE KING.
2022 had been earmarked for TAPESTRY by CAROLE KING. I am lucky to hear all the songs, savour the album’s sheer simplicity of production, complete with pianos and guitars, and the innocence of the emotions involved along with the vocal performance. It is also structured in such a seamless way that the idea of cohesion fits the bill here as regards the tracks.
WAY OVER YONDER, SO FAR AWAY, IT’S TOO LATE, YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND ( a much loved tune covered innumerable times by other artists as Aretha Franklin and James Taylor), the original YOU MAKE ME FEEL LIKE A NATURAL WOMAN, the title track and I FEEL THE EARTH MOVE all resonate with me.
Listeners, give this highly accomplished album a chance if you’ve not yet been exposed to its riches.
WHAT MATTERS MOST by BARBRA STREISAND.
In honour of Marilyn Bergman, one half of an iconic songwriting duo along with her better half Alan, I listened to WHAT MATTERS MOST for the first time, a Barbra Streisand staple that so far had eluded me. After all, the pair had given her such inestimable standards as THE WAY WE WERE and PAPA, CAN YOU HEAR ME? (off the Yentl OST), two of my all time favourites.
It’s just such a delicate, graceful, grateful tune, buoyed by the humility and practicality invested in the words.
As for Ms. Streisand, well, she can interpret human emotions like very few. She does the same here, with endless flair on this gem.
MANDY by BARRY MANILOW.
Mandy has always been close to my heart courtesy its Westlife version where the Irish lads gave it such effusion. So for me, that is the gold standard.
I was surprised hence as to how loyal it is to the Barry Manilow original, both in terms of the instrumentation and vocal finesse. Memorable fare in any iteration. Period.
BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND by PETER, PAUL AND MARY.
The spirit of infusing new life to the classic songbook is present in this version of the original Bob Dylan poem, delivered by the trio whose gentle charm on LEMON TREE and IF I HAD A HAMMER reminds me of how music can forever retain its elemental purity. This one is no different.
WILDFLOWERS by TOM PETTY.
An acoustic guitar and Tom Petty’s voice are all it takes for WILDFLOWERS to make an impression. Its innocence is winsome.
THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK by SIMON AND GARFUNKEL.
This duo is etched in my hall of fame for such unforgettable tunes as MRS. ROBINSON, THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE and BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER. THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK was indeed ripe to be eventually discovered by me. I have been listening to it multiple times and its harmonies, melody and percussive quality are just so endearing. The communal refrain of ‘HERE I AM’ captures a chorus of male voices like none other, perfect in its union of vocal textures.
Also as it so happens with me, I found it accompanying a crucial montage in Ryan Murphy’s HBO film THE NORMAL HEART few weeks later.
YOU’RE SO VAIN by CARLY SIMON.
How can I not sing praises of this all-time classic tune that runs down on the art of snobbery and male privilege with such rich strokes and details? Listen to this Carly Simon tune to make it a favourite on your playlists.
KING OF SORROW by SADE.
This song’s title too, like Florence Welch’s latest single KING, to me, puts an independent woman’s trials and tribulations at the axis of a society governed by male dominant diktats.
KING OF SORROW, however, is a sureshot Sade yarn: smooth, linear in the vocals and putting restraint at the center of the Rhythm and Blues genre she excels in invigorating with her presence.