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Burning A Friend

 

He stepped into, the field today

Though hands on trigger, he really did pray

“Political enemy, but friends”, he’d say

Didn’t know they’d shoot his life away

 

Full of courage he’d shouted, “Now we attack”

Outnumbered he was, but he didn’t turn back

Though wounded and bleeding, but he didn’t slack

Not spirit only body, their bullets could crack

 

Now he is laid down here, honoured and famed

Many bursaries in future may after him be named

Soon I’ll be called up for burning a friend

I’ll sigh and regret, ‘The war didn’t end’.

 

 

I’ve started to wonder, is it sorrow or fear

That draws in my eye, a drop of tear

The war is to be won, the message is clear

In the midst of a war, our lives ain’t worth dear

 

Tomorrow I’ll step into the field again

I fear their bullets won’t go in vain

A bullet for me, a soldier may train

My blood may be spilt in the barren terrain

 

I could be laid down here, tomorrow like this

A sorrowful friend may shed a tear of his

Someone may be called up for burning a friend

But I hope he sighs, ‘The war did end’.

 

 

Single Cover by Mohan Tamang

If you’d like to support my music, please do consider buying the track from the following link: mreenal-mams.bandcamp.com/track/burning-a-friend
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King Crimson

After ravishing Pink Floyd & Genesis, I have been ever hungrier for more and more quantities of Prog. The 70’s prog bands – love ’em all, with no special preference for one band over another. But if not bands, then some albums have a way too special place in my heart. And for that, the band gets a step ahead of the others. So here’s the bold statement of the day- ‘In The Court Of The Crimson King’ is the best prog album of all time. Period.

When discussing the bands from the 70’s, I’ve noticed a problem I encounter every time. These bands have had a long history, progressing (pun intended) through with different sounds and eras, that may not even sound like the same band anymore. I may completely be in love with one era of a band, and may loathe another era of the same band. And King Crimson is one band that has taken it to the limit. Robert Fripp, the driving force of Crimson, has had a compulsive need to change the sound of the band, every few years. And to achieve that, he also very often, changed band members, changed the format of the band, and whenever he felt that the band had nowhere to progress at the moment, he put Crimson on hiatus.

King Crimson was formed in 1969, from the remnants of a little known band in England, called ‘Giles, Giles & Fripp’. It included brothers Peter Giles & Michael Giles on bass and drums respectively, and Robert Fripp playing guitar. After an album out, and not much success to go with it, Robert decided to take control. He replaced Peter with bass player/singer Greg Lake. (Remember ELP..?) Then he brought in multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Ian McDonald. (Have you heard of Journey..?) And the final piece of the puzzle, was lyricist/visual designer Peter Sinfield. Yes, King Crimson is the only band that I have heard of, where a lyricist (just a lyricist, not playing any music) is counted as an official member of the band. (Learn something, rookies).

Before 1969, prog must have been a confusing term. A kinda-strange mixture of Sgt. Pepper, psychedelia, baroque pop, long songs and A Whiter Shade Of Pale. So the King dropped their prog bomb. The first time the world encountered proper prog, was at a Rolling Stones concert, when Crimson opened for them. Soon, their first album was out- In The Court Of The Crimson King. The heavenly voice of Greg put to fantastic and surreal lyrics of Peter Sinfield is what hits home first. Then there is Ian McDonald everywhere on the album- saxophone on 21st Century Schizoid Man; flutes on I Talk To The Wind and the title track; and mellotron (an ancestor of your modern keyboard synthesizers) all across the album. His mellotron sure sounds as huge and awesome as a modern symphony orchestra. Greg’s bass runs here and there throwing surprisingly beautiful melodic bass lines at unexpected turns. And the drumming of Michael Giles- I think this album is the best drumming album of all time in any genre. I could just listen to the drums here and go on a trance. To be honest Fripp, on this album, seems like the weakest member of the band, even though he plays great (on both acoustic & electric), but he has been outshined by the amount of ear-gasms brought forth on this album by the other four band members (yes I’m counting Peter Sinfield too). And also check out, the album art by Barry Godber. Quite a mind-f**k.

Then immediately, a curse started working on our King. After the 1st album, the band was in shambles with almost all the members leaving. Only Fripp and Sinfield were left. For the sophomore, they requested his previous band members and a few others to come and record, but the songs were never performed live, due to the lack of a band. In The Wake Of Poseidon (1970) features the hands (or larynxes) of Michael Giles, Greg Lake (only vocals), Peter Giles (bass), Keith Tippet (piano), Mel Collins (saxophone/flute) and Gordon Haskell (vocals on Cadence and Cascade). On this one, Fripp himself did all the mellotron works that Ian McDonald had been doing previously. Maybe not as good as Epitaph and The Court, but he got it through, to make us feel great. If you’re not too careful, you may not even notice. Amidst all the confusion, Robert and Sinfield still managed to create another masterpiece. This time around, the album art was even better. An artwork called ‘The 12 Faces Of Humankind’ (1967) by Tammo De Jongh. I could just look at the art (both the front and back form the complete 12 faces), while listening to the music and be lost over my head. All the emotions that humans can ever face have been represented in the painting, and equally complemented by the music and lyrics.

Then happened the first noticeable sound change by Fripp. The awesome and huge sounds of mellotrons on the 1st two albums were ditched (boo hoo hoo hoo). Robert did play mellotrons on Lizards (1970) but its not quite the same. Also, this is the first album, where Peter Sinfield has pushed a little extra harder, as he also had a go on the synthesizers, and also some album sleeve. Mel Collins, Keith Tippet and Gordon Haskell continued on their roles, with Andy McCulloch & Tony Levin filling in on drums and bass. Also features some classical musicians on woodwinds and on one track is Yes’s Jon Anderson singing. On this album, Fripp has mostly played acoustic guitar, and may just be the best performance by Fripp throughout the earlier albums. I’m telling you, after listening to the first two albums, you may hate this one. But after several listenings, you’ll like it (if not love it).

On the next album, Islands (1971), Crimson have retained only Mel Collins & Keith Tippet. Members are like a merry go round for Crimson. It’s a headache to even try and remember which member played on which album. But the album sounds kinda-nice, and has a very big influence of Romantic/Classical era Classical music. Not as good as the earlier ones, but still okay. But on their next, Robert made a bold move forward. He fired all the members, (including Peter Sinfield), and started afresh. The new line-up included David Cross (violins/mellotron), John Wetton (bass/vocals), Bill Bruford (drums, who had just quit Yes, after their masterpiece Close To The Edge). The final piece was a free improvising percussionist Jamie Muir, who had to his port folio, playing with Derek Bailey (one of the most famous free improvisers). Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (1973) had a much more experimental sound, with lots of free improvised sections (led by Muir). This is probably one the most experimental yet very typically Rock album of all time. But Crimson could never be constant. Muir was left out for their next album Starless And Bible Black (1974), and Cross was left on their next and final album Red (1974). On Red, Robert had pretty much lost all interest, and the music was mostly led by Bruford and Wetton. Robert knew there was not much ground that Crimson had left to go to now. Hence ended the first and greatest era of the band, as Robert disbanded King Crimson.

In the 80s, Robert reformed Crimson with Bruford, Tony Levin (bass/chapman stick) & Adrian Belew (guitar/vocals, previously of Frank Zappa’s band). This era of Crimson used the modern sounds and styles of the days- great productions, pyro-techniques, instrumental virtuosity, and new wave. This line up released 3 albums- Discipline (1981), Beat (1982) and Three Of A Perfect Pair (1984). Though they are amusing, and entertaining to an extent, I cannot quite take them seriously to be King Crimson’s music. With this era, they kick-started what is called neo-prog that comes with good production, instrumental virtuosity, and all other things that I am not so fond of. The same stuff that 90s bands like Dream Theater took to their ultimate extremes. And what Fripp & company did later in the 90s and 2000s, (I dare not call it King Crimson anymore), are continuing to be in the same vain.

The first era of Crimson has influences from Psychedelic Rock (Happy Family), Classical Music of the Romantic Era (especially with the mellotrons – The Court Of The Crimson King), avante-garde/free improvisation (Moonchild), with occasional hard rockers (21st Century Schizoid Man, Pictures Of A City), ballads (I Talk To The Wind, Cadence And Cascade, Lady Of The Dancing Water), 70s style virtuoso playing (21st Century Schizoid Man, Cat Food, The Devil’s Triangle, Indoor Games) and of course, the epic prog tracks (all the tracks of the 1st album, In The Wake Of Poseidon, Lizard). They have the ability to take a listener through all variations of human emotions (even more so with the album arts). From the ethereal, to energetic, to humourous, to ponderous, to sad, to confused. It’s all there in the first 5 Crimson albums (upto Aspic). I get lost in my own head, everytime I listen to any of these albums. Awesome melodies especially on the flutes (either McDonald or Collins), and always great drumming that keeps you wanting ever more quantities of Crimson.

R.I.P. Greg Lake & John Wetton

Fav. Albums:

  • In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969)
  • In The Wake Of Poseidon (1970)
  • Lizards (1970)
  • Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (1973)

Fav. Songs:

  • 21st Century Schizoid Man [including ‘Mirrors’], I Talk To The Wind, Epitaph [including ‘March For No Reason’ & ‘Tomorrow And Tomorrow’], Moonchild [including ‘The Dream’ & ‘The Illusion’], The Court Of The Crimson King [including ‘The Return Of The Fire Witch’ & ‘The Dance Of The Puppets’] (The Court Of The Crimson King- 1969… in other words- the whole album)
  • Peace- A Beginning, Cadence And Cascade, In The Wake Of Poseidon, The Devil’s Triangle, Peace- An End (In The Wake Of Poseidon- 1970)
  • Happy Family (loud headphones recommended for this track,… it’s CRRRAZY), Lizard (Lizard- 1970)
  • Formentera Lady, Prelude: Song Of The Gulls, Islands (Islands- 1971)
  • Larks’ Tongues In Aspic- Part I, Book Of Saturday, The Talking Drum, Larks’ Tongues In Aspic-Part II (Larks’ Tongues In Aspic- 1973)
  • Three Of A Perfect Pair (Three Of A Perfect Pair- 1984)

Fav. Album Covers:

  • In The Court Of The Crimson King (Barry Godber)
  • In The Wake Of Poseidon (The 12 Faces Of Humankind – Tammo De Jongh)
  • Larks’ Tongues In Aspic

Other Bands/Artists To Check Out:

Pink Floyd, Genesis, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Yes, Rush, Camel, Jethro Tull,

Soft Machine, Miles Davis (late 60s & early 70s era), Frank Zappa,

Ludwig Van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Bela Bartok

I do not own the copyrights to the image used. Got it straight from google. Since I am not commercializing this article (at least not yet), I’m guessing no one will want to sue me.

What Has Happened To My Home As Of Late..?

What has happened to my home as of late..?

Somebody please take hold of her fate

There exists no more conscience, but only hate

And the government uses all this as a bait

 

The hills are bleeding full of anger and rage

When governance is nothing but a disgusting cage

Democracy is just a fancy word on a page

The need for a home has now come of age

 

My hills have bled and wept out aloud

But the shouts are being drowned by the media’s shroud

Over Kanchendzonga now hovers a thick black cloud

As police take headshots at an unarmed crowd

 

The fascist’s deeds are now in black and white

But the media is paid, so what she wants they write

Remember it’s the Gorkhas that you’ve chosen to fight

Your stained hands shall be brought to the whole planet’s light

 

Be you a Gorkha or be you not one

Be you a Bengali, an Indian or American

Be you Japanese, Iranian or Brazilian

The issue at hand is of concern to any human

 

I urge thee oh people of the whole world

Take heed of what in Darjeeling has unfurled

I beg all of thee down at my knees

To condemn what has happened, and rescue us please

Black Sabbath

 

Okay let me bold on this one, Black Sabbath is the best metal band of all time. No arguments accepted. After listening to a bit of Iron Maiden, Scorpions and a few other Rock/Metal bands, I started making my way chronologically backwards. During this journey I encountered the mighty Sab Four. And boy I was hooked.

Black Sabbath were formed in 1968, in Birmingham, England, and are considered the father of heavy metal. With Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward, they made eight albums across the 70s. After pioneering heavy metal on their first three albums ‘Black Sabbath’, ‘Paranoid’ and ‘Master Of Reality’, they started experimenting with their sounds on the next three albums, ‘Vol. 4’, ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’, and ‘Sabotage’. Here they started incorporating more instruments, experimental tracks, and alternate ways to develop Heavy Rock/Metal music. Then they had a slight slump with their next two albums ‘Technical Ecstasy’ and ‘Never Say Die’. Amidst drunkenness and drug addiction, they finally parted ways with Ozzy (fired sounds a bit too rude to use for such a legend), and replaced him with another great singer Ronnie James Dio, previously of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. After two albums ‘Heaven And Hell’ and ‘Mob Rules’, they replaced Ronnie with Ian Gillan previously of Deep Purple. This line up made only one album ‘Born Again’, after which Black Sabbath became a revolving door of members, with only Tony being the only permanent member. They occasionally reunited with Ronnie and Ozzy producing one-off albums and tours. Their latest one being ‘13’ released in 2013. But for me their best era was undoubtedly the 70s with the original line-up, and that is what I’m gonna talk about here.

How do they sound..? They sound HEAVY (caps intented). The first thing to notice are the mammoth riffs by Tony. There hadn’t been as heavy guitar riffs before he hit the tritone (a.k.a. devil’s note, diabolus in musica) on the very first song (titled Black Sabbath) on their first album (again titled Black Sabbath). His riffs across several songs pound on your ears and make you nod/bang your head everytime. They are slow, rocking, and engulf you, and occupy your whole conscience. (Even now I’m not being able to focus on writing this article, as I’m headbanging to Wicked World). Then comes Ozzy’s wails. His singing maybe out of pitch, and his voice may sound hoarse and weak, but it grips you by the neck. He is a vocalist who draws his singing style from straight from the hoarse psychedelic songs of the late 60s like Jack Bruce, John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, etc. Hence, yes he sounds super psychedelic. Then comes the extra bonus gifts to your ears. The super heavy, groovy, fat and low-pitched basslines from Geezer. His bass lines have a hypnotic effect, drawing on the super heavy bass lines of Jack Bruce, John Paul Jones, etc, but much more gripping. I could just listen to the bass and have a great time. No other metal bass player has been able to emulate his hypnotic bass lines. And then you add the secret ingredient- the jazz drumming of Bill Ward. Unlike most rock drummers of the day, Bill did not rely solely on the Rock ‘N Roll backbeat. His style could be traced to jazz drummers like Art Blakey and Elvin Jones. Of course, you always had the Ringo Starr-ian swinging back beat that makes you bob your head. It’s not over yet. The guitar solos by Tony may be emulating his blues-rock predecessors like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Ritchie Blackmore and Jimmy Page. But he one-upped them by a very simple process. How..? Simple maths – he played two solos. Listen carefully to Tony’s solos on headphones, and you can clearly hear there are two different solos on each side of the headphone. Yes, the technique that is famous today known as double tracking. Each side of your ear is taken on a separate journey by two Tony Iommi’s.

So, every component of the music is great and each member is a master of their respective art. The music is a flawless journey that does not forget to count in the listener as almost a part of the band. They don’t amuse you and leave you clueless. They take you along with the music. You think this much is enough to make them the best metal band of all time, right..? But there’s still more. Of course, how can a Black Sabbath discussion ever be complete without mentioning Geezer’s lyrics..? You might think that my next statement is a tad-bit too far-fetched, but, I think that the direct predecessor to Geezer’s lyrics is none other than Bob Dylan. If you don’t believe me listen to the lyrics of Bob’s Masters Of War, and Geezer’s War Pigs side by side. There are many analogies that can be drawn. They both talked about nuclear warfare, evil/corrupt governmental policies, brainwashing of the masses, personal depressions and addictions. Of course, I will say that Geezer is a much darker and bolder version of Bob. Whereas Bob spoke through references like Judas and alchohol, Geezer referenced Satan and harder drugs. Though I must say, as a fan of Sabbath lyrics, that there are a few bummers during their addiction years. (I can never take Sweet Leaf seriously because of the lyrics). But most of the time, Geezer’s songs always have a message to convey, sometimes personal, sometimes socio-political, but always great.

I don’t want to talk much about the Dio era, as Ronnie mostly took over the leadership (even the lyrics). I sure do love it. But it just is not the same psychedelia-infused heavy metal sound that the words Black Sabbath make me think of. It sounds much cleaner, well produced, and lyrically imaginative. But Sabbath lost the hypnotic quality that I loved about them. I love those two albums more as a Dio fan than as a Sabbath fan.

Fav. Albums:

  • Black Sabbath (1970)
  • Paraonid (1970)
  • 4 (1972)
  • Heaven And Hell (1980)

Fav. Songs:

(trying hard to limit myself to just a few)

  • Black Sabbath, The Wizard, N.I.B., Sleeping Village (Black Sabbath- 1970, though the whole album is super-duper awesome)
  • War Pigs, Planet Caravan, Hand Of Doom, Rat Salad, Fairies Wear Boots (Paranoid- 1970)
  • Children Of The Grave (Master Of Reality- 1971)
  • Wheels Of Confusion, Changes, FX, Snowblind, Laguna Sunrise (Vol. 4- 1972)
  • Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Who Are You (Sabbath Bloody Sabbath- 1973)
  • Megalomania, Am I Going Insane (Sabotage- 1975)
  • Children Of The Sea, Heaven And Hell, Lonely Is The World (Heaven And Hell- 1980)
  • End Of The Beginning, God Is Dead (13- 2013)

Fav. Lyrics:

  • Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath- 1970)
  • War Pigs, Paranoid, Planet Caravan, Electric Funeral, Hand Of Doom, Fairies Wear Boots (Paranoid- 1970)
  • Children Of The Grave (Master Of Reality- 1971)
  • Changes, Snowblind (Vol. 4- 1972)
  • Heaven And Hell (Heaven And Hell- 1980)

Other Bands/Artists To Check Out:

Bob Dylan, Cream, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Blue Cheer, Coven,

Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, King Crimson, Budgie, Pentagram,

Judas Priest, Rainbow, Dio, Ozzy Osbourne (solo),

Saint Vitus, Trouble, Candlemass

I do not own the copyrights to the image used. Got it straight from google. Since I am not commercializing this article (at least not yet), I’m guessing no one will want to sue me.

Donkey

 

If you have read some stories

And seen movies of the old

You must have heard my name

When stupidity doth unfold

 

I have been nominated

To signify the fool

I have portrayed the loser

Even in nursery school

 

The cow giveth thee milk

And horses doth thee ride

From worms you make thy silk

And strip the goat for thy hide

 

 

The Banaras Experience

Check this one out…

Musings

There is something about Banaras that perhaps one cannot describe in words to one’s complete satisfaction. At first look it is just a regular two-tier Indian city with narrow streets, over population, cattle on the streets, temple goers, and the bustling crowd anywhere and everywhere. Despite all of this, there is a vibe to this place, an energy or invisible force just like the dark energy that constitutes two third of the entire universe and yet invisible to the eye. This energy I’d like to call the ancient energy is an amalgamation of the place’s history, it’s geography and the innumerable myths associated to it. This energy has been attracting people, Indians and Foreigners alike since ages.

Banaras was not anywhere on top of my must visit destinations, but somewhere within me was the curiosity to know what this place is all about. So bored of my daily routine, when…

View original post 1,405 more words

24601

 

My name is Jean Valjean

And I’m a slave of the law

19 years in prison

In the cold ice that never thaw

 

I stole a piece of bread

For my sister’s dying child

My sister’s child is dead

And there is nowhere I can hide

 

5 years for the theft

And fourteen for trying to escape

I was counted same as those

That did murder and did rape

 

My name is Jean Valjean

Still a slave of the law

I’ve spent 19 years in prison

Eating crumbs of food raw

 

Your law has made me an old man

And now you set me free

Your law I do not believe

For there are people just like me

 

This freedom that you gave me

Are branding me instead

That I was once a criminal

Your stupid papers read

 

My name is Jean Valjean

And I’m a slave of the law

Now I cannot get no work

Not even to weild a saw

 

I’m not confined to prison

But I am still a prisoner

Only mockery and cold stares

Not a penny worth of honour

 

Javert your name I’ll remember

Until the day I die

Not of fear but rather hatred

For you made my soul cry

 

My name is Jean Valjean

I’m a prisoner of the law

And I shall kill myself tonight

Just to be free from your wretched law

 

Loosely based on Victor Hugo’s novel “Les Miserables” and the musical drama film based on it, by Tom Hooper.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer

 

I’m a 70’s Prog-head and ELP is one of my favourites among many. I first got my hands on a random collection of their songs like C’est La Vie, Nutrocker, and the whole live audio of Pictures At An Exhibition, and I haven’t stopped listening to them (and never will). For me 70’s Prog is just an infinite well of brilliant music, and ELP is one of the biggest gems from that well.

Okay, do you know what a ‘Supergroup’ is..? Let me explain… Once Upon A Time, there was a relatively popular shock rock singer called Arthur Brown, with a famous single called ‘Fire’ in the charts. His drummer’s name was Carl Palmer. Remember that name. After Sgt. Pepper, a few bands were boiling underground with concept albums, virtuosic instrument playing and great artworks. One of the mildly popular one was The Nice with its organ/synth wizard Keith Emerson. Remember that name too. Then in 1969, Prog Rock was finally given a solid birth by King Crimson on their debut album In The Court Of The Crimson King. Crimson was filled with virtuosos, one of whom was bass player/singer/songwriter Greg Lake. Remember this name too. So these three musicians (whose names I told you to remember), were sort of mildly popular and known for their skills and virtuosic playing and showmanship. But Arthur Brown was not a Prog band, and in The Nice, the other musicians could not accompany Keith well, and Crimson’s Robert Fripp was a little-too dominating and sort-of curbed the talents of Greg Lake (No offense to Fripp, he was great too). So, in 1970, these three super musicians from England, quitted their respective bands and formed the supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

There is also small side-story (maybe a rumour) that I cannot resist from telling about the formation of this group. As you might have already noticed, ELP do not have a guitarist. Actually they wanted to have a guitarist. The band was actually supposed to be called HELP (not just ELP), and the H stood for a virtuosic guitarist of the time. You guessed it, JIMI HENDRIX. But…. Jimi died. So we are left with a Prog power trio, the first and only of its kind, comprising organ/synth, bass and drums. Don’t be too sad that Jimi couldn’t join in, because Keith Emerson, more than made up for it. Yes, he was often hailed as the Hendrix of the keyboards. Have you ever seen an organist hustling his organ around the stage..? Yes you read it right, I said ‘HUSTLING HIS ORGAN’ (organs aren’t that small okay…). Well if you haven’t, then right at this moment, drop everything (including this article), go to YouTube and check out the full live concert of ELP’s Pictures At An Exhibition. Come back for the rest of the article later, but watch it NOW….

Okay, you’re back…? Come back to your senses, I just got started with the article. Yes it was shocking. But Greg Lake, smoothened the journey up right. Yes Greg was a master songwriter. He’d pick up his acoustic and sing the sweetest songs after Keith’s organ/synth assaults. And Carl Palmer was not one to just keep the beat going. He soloed on them drums like no other.

Every prog band has had its niche, or to better phrase it, their own ‘Secret Ingredient’. For ELP it was classical music. Keith Emerson was a classically trained musician. But he was not one to be satisfied with the polite and soft spoken audience of classical music who followed the scores of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake note by note. He wanted to Hendrixify his audience. He wanted to rock out and make a mess on the stage. He wanted his audience to go berserk while he created unworldly sounds on his synthesizers. Hence, it was obvious that when he was the leader of a loud rock ‘n roll band, he would do so with all his classical knowledge and technique oozing out of his fingers. So ELP often had hardened and rockified versions of obscure classical pieces on their albums. In fact, their first album (eponymous titled) started with a hard rock version of Bela Bartok’s The Barbarian. The album also had segments of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music. For their second album, they had even greater ambitions. They recorded a live concert where they mixed their own music with Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition (yeah that one.., it really is classical music). However, as most record labels often did in the 70s, their label refused to release it for fear of being able to sell it. In fact the label suggested an alternative, to release it on their classical sub-label, and hence-wise be able to market it to classical audience. ELP would have none of that. The album was made for a rock ‘n roll crowd, and that was where it had to go. So ELP shelved it to prove a point, and recorded their second album ‘Tarkus’. The title track of Tarkus was an epic track of around 20 minutes. The labels thought the rock audience would not buy it. How wrong they were. Tarkus was embraced by rock ‘n roll with open arms, and more so for its epic title track. Now the label were convinced that rockified-classical music would sell. So, today, we are fortunate to get our ears tuned to Pictures At An Exhibition, their masterpiece.

After that they produced two more prog masterpieces ‘Trilogy’ & ‘Brain Salad Surgery’. By this time they were like super-heroes of prog, not less so because of Emerson’s shiny & superhero like costumes, often complete with a cape. Their instrumentation was huge. They used electric trigger drums, double-neck guitars (one neck for bass, one for regular guitar), giant synthesizers, and even whole orchestras. So much so, that when they toured, each member had a whole tour bus for his equipment. By 1977, ELP was often given adjectives like overblown, self-indulgent, and many other not-so-nice words. And then, punk hit the shores. Almost all the prog bands got watered down, with ELP at the frontline. So they cut their hair, sobered up, and made a few not-so-proggy albums before breaking up. Emerson and Lake reunited in the 80s with Cozy Powell to make a few more albums, but all in all to us kids born in the 90s, ELP became like a fairy tale or myth only to be referred to in “Once Upon A Time” tales.

ELP’s music has a touch of exploration, coupled with super awesome playing of their instruments. Each member would probably be one of the greatest of all time, on their respective instruments. And Keith has to be the greatest keyboard player of all time. His playing has a seductive/hypnotic quality to it that just pulls the listener in and amazes you with the possibilities. And just so that you don’t get me wrong, their music is not exclusive of the listener. It doesn’t say ‘Look what I can do with my instrument.’ Or ‘Look how fast I can play.’ It is much more inclusive. It takes you on a journey where the virtuosic playing is just one of the many tricks to amaze you. The music does not leave you behind. You enjoy each new trick pulled by either of the member, and feel very much a part of it. It is like an adventurous journey with its sole focus on exploration of new territory and new sounds and of course, to have fun in that new found sound.

Just last year (in 2016) Emerson commited suicide due to severe depression as he was unable to play his keyboards due to some illness that rendered him unable to play. He was closely followed by Greg Lake (not suicide).

Rest In Peace Kieth & Greg, and wish Carl happy times for the remaining days of his life.

Fav. Albums:

  • Emerson, Lake & Palmer (1970)
  • Pictures At An Exhibition (Live Album – 1972)

Fav. Songs:

  • The Barbarian, Take A Pebble, Lucky Man (1970 – Emerson, Lake & Palmer)
  • Tarkus, Jeremy Bender (1971 – Tarkus)
  • Promenade, The Gnome, The Sage, Nutrocker (1972 – Pictures At An Exhibition)
  • Still… You Turn Me On (1973 – Brain Salad Surgery)
  • C’est La Vie (1977 – Works, Vol. I)

Other Bands To Check Out:

King Crimson, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, The Nice,

Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, Camel, Jethro Tull, Asia, Hiromi Uehara

I do not own the copyrights to the image used. Got it straight from google. Since I am not commercializing this article (at least not yet), I’m guessing no one will want to sue me.

Red Panda Blues

 

The red panda was left in the wilderness for six years

Through these years he learnt how to laugh and how to shed tears

He learnt to recognize all the fake friends and who are the real dears

He learnt how to celebrate his joys and overcome his fears

 

But now he is

Back in the zoo

His homecoming

Is celebrated

And for a moment

He is happy too

But soon he figures out

That home is overrated

 

He gets spoon fed

His favourite bamboo

And there is no danger

Of panda eating predators

And all the necessities of a red panda

Are taken care of by the crew

He is never brought in contact

With any panda haters

 

He lives in his comfortable tree bed

Listening to all the wonderful sounds emanating from his laptop speakers

He has stories that always make sense in his imaginations

Imaginations of adventures in the wilderness, from his gilded cage

 

He tries to free his rhymes like when he did in the wild

But it never works

The gilded cage has a psychological effect too

And even the food is medicated to suit the manners of the zoo

He needs to leave and he needs to leave now

The love of the zoo keepers is chloroform for him

 

He is afraid, he is paranoid, he is over sleeping, he is a lazy panda

He is Eleanor Rigby, he is Father McKenzie, the little red panda, suffocated in his head

His words don’t make sense, his tunes are repetitive

He doesn’t rhyme his songs anymore

But he would have liked to

 

He looks at the free homo sapiens

Eating pop corn and watching him

They look free

He wishes it too

And the bars of the gilded cage

Chokes on his consience

And despite writing several lines

His feelings are still overflowing

 

Suffocation and depression

Are ever lasting emotions

Its not like happiness

That comes and goes

 

What do you think,

Mr. Tiger and Mr. Bear,

And all you pretty pheasants,

And all the herbivores below,

Do you feel suffocated too..?

Do you desire freedom too..?

Do you empathize with me..?

Or am I just having the Old Pink syndrome

 

Will this song ever stop..?

Now even it is becoming

A golden crown of roses’ thorns

And by the time the praises reach me

They have turned to hardened stones

I’ll stop it now

And live my gloomy day

The zookeeper will come soon

With my quota of freshly medicated bamboos

And the sun will set soon

It will be time for me

To go to nerdvana for my usual ginger lemon honey tea

And a few sticks of cigarettes

A few animals shall be gathered there

We shall bark about the great arts of music, movies, and other similar non-sense

It helps to live with social sanity

In keeping intact the manners of the zoo

But I am just pretending, it’s not me

After all I’m just a little red panda

Stuck in a gilded cage of a zoo

Mahavishnu Orchestra

(& Other Works of John McLaughlin)

My musical training started with unwilling Indian Classical Vocal lessons from the age of 9…. Completely loathed it… Around 12, I found the Guitar and around 14, I found Rock ‘N’ Roll. But nobody knew that I was a closet admirer of Indian Classical Music. Of course, I didn’t have access to any real music, but the vocal classes gave me clues that there were a few odd gems to be discovered there. Around 16, I was a blues fanatic and Eric Clapton was the Everest for me. However, Clapton himself never believed that he is God, and often promoted other guitarists of sometimes very different styles, well evident in his Crossroads festival. I had a DVD of one of the Crossroads Festival, and it had performances by talents like Clapton himself, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, and many others. But there was one that completely blew me away. It was none other than the Father of World Fusion Music himself- John McLaughlin. And guess who accompanied him- the ambassador of Indian Music- Zakir Hussain. I had to search John’s music up. I found Shakti, I found the Guitar Trio, I found several solo and collaboration projects, but the one that touched me the most was his first band- Mahavishnu Orchestra.

In the late 60s, Eric Clapton & Jimi Hendrix had revolutionized the style of electric guitar playing. And from there, the first proper virtuoso to emerge with a staggering speed and ability on the guitar was John McLaughlin. And the musician who employed him, was none other than the Jazz legend Miles Davis. Miles always had the best musicians around him, and with John on the stride now, he made several great albums. Special mention must be made of ‘In A Silent Way’, the ambient, almost meditative album, where John has made a lot of contributions. However, the order of the day was Psychedelic/Acid Rock, and Miles was not selling much records. Luckily for him, people like John McLaughlin & others knew what to do. His album ‘Bitches Brew’ was the most Acidic/Psychedelic/Space Rock music, ever to have been fused with Jazz, and just like that, the genre of Fusion was born. John’s guitar and Miles’ horn skated through the double album across tracks as long as 20 minutes and put the listener into a complete trance, just as successfully as Pink Floyd or the Velvet Underground were doing. As a token of appreciation, Miles actually named one of the tracks as ‘John McLaughlin’. Bitches Brew was a big hit, as hit as Jazz (if it can still be called Jazz) could ever be. And yet, Miles was not a selfish man. He could have kept the hit formula of Miles & John and made several more hits. But he let John go, and actually told him to form his own band.

In 1971, John McLaughlin was the best guitarist in the world. Nobody could play faster than him or more complicated jazz lines than him. He had the Hard Rock pedigree with a firm grip on the blues. He had just had a stint in the band of the most respected musician of the time. He was at the top of his game as the best guitarist in Jazz as well as Rock and Blues. However he had a secret weapon, yet to be unleashed. Taking inspiration from other western musicians like John Coltrane, Yehudi Menuhin & George Harrison, he had also taken a step towards mastering Indian Classical Music. So with the blessings of Miles, he set out to form a new band. Of course, like Miles, he also had to be surrounded by the best in the business. Billy Cobham (also from the Miles Davis camp), the drummer who knew what a Rock beat is and what a Jazz beat is, and knew enough of the odd time signatures of Indian Classical Music. Jerry Goodman, who played Electric Violins (in 1971…..!!!!!!) and was equally adept at pizzicato style. Jan Hammer, master keyboardist, who had already been pursued by a few prog-bands of the day. And to keep all that talent in a tight knit groove, was bass player Rick Laird, the only bass player I have seen, who can carelessly smile while playing a groove in 10/4 time signature, and not miss a beat. And the name of the band paid a tribute to John’s fascination with Indian spirituality- Mahavishnu Orchestra.

They were formed in 1971, but it would be futile to assign them to a particular country. Each member was from a different country. You didn’t think the crem-de-la-crem of the best musicians would all be from the same country, did you..? Okay just for your consolation, John was an Englishman, Billy was American, Jan was Irish. I’m confused about the others,.. There’s a limit to how much information my brain can retain. Forget the facts, they were an international band, playing an inter-genre-fused kind of music that nobody else could. However, as with any such band of super musicians, it did not last long. By 1973, they had released two albums (The Inner Mounting Flame & Birds Of Fire), and the music was as mind blowing as could be. But the first line-up (or the 1st Incarnation as John called it) imploded after that. An album in the making was shelved and only released decades later (The Lost Trident Sessions). John soon got a new incarnation, this time featuring John-Luc Ponty on violins, and also a few other vocalists and multi instrumentalists. To me it does feel a little overblown, but the music John & crew made is quite unchallengeable. The music was more meditative, more devoid of Hard Rock influences and slightly hinted at what John was to do next.

After the second incarnation, John decided to drop the electric guitar for a while, and delve deeper into his interests in Indian Music. He formed acoustic quartet Shakti with three Indians- then-unknown tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, violinist L. Shankar & ghatam player T.H. Vikku Vinayakram. All virtuosos, the music was fast, virtuostic, and may even be called what is often derogatively called ‘A Musician’s Musician’. For me it is just wizardry, speed and virtuosity, but it does not quite touch my heart as Mahavishnu does. After Shakti he formed a trio of guitar virtuosos with gypsy jazz guitarist Al Di Meola & flamenco guitarist Paco De Lucia. Another mind boggling display of virtuosity and speed. He even formed a third incarnation of Mahavishnu Orchestra in the 80s, which included electronic musicians, with John himself playing Guitar Synthesizers. He has formed several short lived bands/ensembles, the latest being The 4th Dimension, featuring Indian drummer Ranjit Barot. And all across the years, he has also constantly been making albums, either credited to himself as a solo artist or as collaborations with other well known artists. They have featured some of the greatest musicians of eastern and western genres like- Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, Jack Bruce (from Cream), Jan Garbarek, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Chick Corea, Niladri Kumar, and of course, our Darjeeling’s own Louiz Banks (who is often hailed as the Father of Indian Jazz).

I have not finished listening to John’s whole discography (maybe never will). Add to that live albums and bootleg albums, and box sets. However, the ones that have most touched are the early Mahavishnu records. They have an undeniable Hard Rock (maybe even Metal) sound, attitude and aggression, coupled with structures and ideologies of Jazz like the head and improvised solos. And where are they drawing from..? From India. The modes/scales and beats/time signatures are all borrowed from Indian Classical Music. And during the second incarnation, they have another pedigree of Western Classical Music through the new vocalists and the violin/viola harmonies. And let us not forget that all the while John has always had an aggressive attack for his guitar solos, which comes only from Blues music and its derivative genres like Soul & Funk. So if you ask me, ‘What would it sound like, if we take only the best of the best components of several genres of music, and put it all in a cauldron..?’ I’d say it would sound like Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Fav. Mahavishnu Albums:

  • The Inner Mounting Flame (1971)
  • Birds Of Fire (1973)
  • Visions Of The Emerald Beyond (1975)

 Other Fav. John’s albums:

  • In A Silent Way (Miles Davis- 1969)
  • Bitches Brew (Miles Davis- 1970)
  • Extrapolation (John McLaughlin- 1969)
  • Devotion (John McLaughlin- 1970)
  • My Goals Beyond (John McLaughlin- 1971)
  • Love Devotion Surrender (Carlos Santana & John McLaughlin- 1973)
  • Shakti With John McLaughlin (Shakti- 1975)
  • A Handful Of Beauty (Shakti- 1976)
  • Friday Night In San Francisco (Al Di Meola, John Mc Laughlin & Paco De Lucia (1980)
  • Thieves And Poets (John McLaughlin- 2003)
  • Montreux Concerts Box Set (John McLaughlin with various bands- Live- 2003 release)
  • Floating Point (John McLauglin- 2008) [**this one features Louis Banks**]
  • Five Peace Band – Live [John McLaughlin & Chick Corea- 2009)

Fav. Mahavishnu Tracks:

  • Meeting Of The Spirits, A Lotus On Irish Streams, The Dance Of Maya, You Know You Know (The Inner Mounting Flame- 1971)
  • Birds Of Fire, Sapphire Bullets Of Pure Love (Birds Of Fire- 1973)
  • Eternity’s Breath Part 1, Eternity’s Breath Part 2, Lila’s Dance, Pastoral, If I Could See, Pegasus (Visions Of The Emerald Beyond- 1975)

Other Fav. John’s Tracks:

  • Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) [The Beatles cover] (Experiments With Pop- Gordon Beck- 1968)
  • Shhh/Peaceful/Shhh, In A Silent Way/It’s About That Time (In A Silent Way- Miles Davis- 1969)
  • Pharaoh’s Dance, Bitches Brew (Bitches Brew- Miles Davis- 1970)
  • Arjen’s Bag (Extrapolation- John McLaughlin- 1969)
  • A Love Supreme [John Coltrane cover] (Carlos Santana & John McLaughlin- 1973)
  • Joy, Lotus Feet (Shakti With John McLaughlin- Shakti- 1975)
  • Isis (A Handful Of Beauty- Shakti- 1976)
  • Mediterranean Sundance, Guardian Angel (Friday Night In San Francisco- Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin & Paco De Lucia- 1980)
  • Thieves And Poets Parts 1, Thieves And Poets Part 2, Thieves And Poets Part 3 (Thieves And Poets- John McLaughlin- 2003)
  • Tones For Elvin Jones (Crossroads Guitar Festival- John McLaughlin- 2004)
  • Abbaji (For Alla Rakha), Raju (Floating Point- John McLaughlin- 2008)

Other Bands/Artists To Check Out:

Shakti, The Guitar Trio, The One Truth Band, Remember Shakti, The 4th Dimension,  Miles Davis (from the late 60s onwards), The Yellow Jackets, Herbie Hancock & The Headhunters, Soft Machine, John Scofield, Pat Metheney, Allan Holdsworth, George Harisson, Ravi Shankar

I do not own the copyrights to the image used. Got it straight from google. Since I am not commercializing this article (at least not yet), I’m guessing no one will want to sue me.