Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson (1958 - 2009)

The opening bars of Billie Jean always make me feel like I’m getting into a disco (though I’m not much of a dancer) with the promise of a great night lying ahead. Thriller was one of my first music albums.

One of the greatest pop icons of modern times, Michael Jackson, died today at the age of 50. Speaking strictly for myself, I was never a big fan of the fellow’s music except for the album, Thriller which is a classic, and a few songs here and there.

He lived a strange life, surrounded by controversies, diseases and the many makeovers.
But, he (along with Madonna and Wham) made English popular music a mass product for a generation of Indians. Before him, English music was limited to a few urban audiences. After his album ‘Bad’, every kid was doing the moonwalk with a poster of BAD hanging from the wall of his / her room.

Starting at the early age of 5, musically, he drew influences from Soul, Soft Rock, R&B, Pop and Jazz. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice and had 13 Grammys and 13 Number One Singles. These are some telling statistics, indicating his role and influence in music and popular culture.

He will be remembered by many.

ps: for a visual tribute to the deceased icon, you can go here

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dylan's Latest

It’s not a classic alright, but it’s worth several whiskey-soaked visits. Together Through Life, the 33rd studio album from Mr. Bob Dylan once again displays his poetic genius. Its beauty, depth and the range of emotions grows on each hearing.

Musically, it has the same flavour as the last few albums (Modern Times, Time Out Of Mind), that of urban American blues. And his voice, gruffer than ever, adding the right character to the lyrics. Put some great guitar fills by Mike Campbell (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers) and soulful accordion sighs of David Hidalgo (Los Lobos) and the album surely has a very long ‘CD tray value’.

Poetically, the album is wry, caustic, sentimental, rich, wicked and very American . My favourites are, the sentimental ‘Life is Hard’, the conversational, ‘Forgetful Heart’, the violin laced (like the 'Desire' days), 'This Dream Of You' and the wickedly satirical final track, ‘It’s All Good’.

These last lines from ‘Forgetful Heart’ conveys the feeling of the ultimate defeat.

“All night long I lay awake and listen to the sound of pain
The door has closed through ever more
If indeed there ever was a door”

Or, feel the pain in the beautifully sung ‘Life Is Hard’.

“The sun is sinking low
I guess it's time to go
I feel a chilly breeze
In place of memories
My dreams are locked and barred
Admitting life is hard
Without you near me”

At 68, the man continues to be the greatest songwriter of our time.