Music lore has it that the old masters of Indian classical music could gather dense clouds in the sky and move them to release precious rain with an intense exposition of specific ragas. Recent legend has it that the 20th century master, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar did just that with his rendition in raga Amruthavarshini. A legend in my family – my mother’s side, that is – also has it that the very same master musician’s proposal to wed my grandmother was politely but firmly declined by her father. Good thing too because I wouldn’t have been born and what a loss to the world that would’ve been >;-> Incidentally, my grandmother went on to marry another musician, a less known one. I’d also like to place on record there were times when I’d seen the late ancient look at me gravely and long with I suspect regret on her mind on what might have been and what had come to pass. Tough luck, sweety, and bless your soul. But here I am. And I continue to indulge in the national obsession with the failed rains. I do not know how much truth there is in the legend – I see no evidence of musicians these days of such prowess. So I’ll feebly put together a rainsong list in what is at best vain hope.
“Have You Ever Seen The Rain” is not what I’d call a typical Creedence Clearwater Revival song and I’ve swung between being indifferent to it and loving it. But whatever be the position of that pendulum, there’s no denying the wistfulness in John Fogerty’s voice on this song. And it seems just right to me at this moment.
One of the most memorable sounds – and sights, given the amount of airplay the video got – of the early ‘90s was Blind Melon’s “No Rain”. Trippy, happy, lazy and a precursor to yet another episode in the familiar tragedy of rock music. Blind Melon produced at least two excellent albums and then dropped out. For some unfathomable reason, I didn’t bother checking why. I just assumed burn-out. It was only very recently while reading one of LxL’s posts that I came to know the lead vocalist of the band, Shannon Hoon was dead and had been so for years. Of what? Listen to the song and it’ll be fairly obvious from the tone. If you need a hint, reel back to one of the adjectives I used for the song. And yes, I am verbose.
I’ve spent joyful hours over the years listening to The Manhattan Transfer’s jazz pop. Basically about a dozen songs. A friend of mine had quite a few of their albums. But none of these I liked in its entirety. There were specific songs that I totally loved though. So I stuck to a “Best Of” compilation. “Trickle, Trickle” is one of my favourites…when I’m in a certain mood. I can’t put a finger on it – perhaps in one of my child-like, all’s-well-with-the-world mood. That’s about an hour in the year. Or as now, in a desperate-for-rain mood. You’ll know what I mean when you hear it – happy song. Not trippy-happy, just happy.
“Here Comes The Rain Again” was the first Eurythmics song I heard – no, not “Sweet Dreams”, it was this one. And I was hooked to the line cast by Annie Lennox’s voice. I guess Dave Stewart’s production had something to do with it too but for me, it was essentially the voice. I was actually happy when the duo broke up. Never mind the fact that I had a mild crush on Lennox, I felt the sound was getting boring and I thought Lennox could do better. And rightly so, for I’ve enjoyed her subsequent solo efforts. She brings an intelligence to songs that’s not often seen in pop music.
Dream Theater is a strange one for me. I love this progressive metal (contradiction in terms? I guess someone had to invent the term for the “thinking man’s” metal) band’s musicianship but I’ve never quite been impressed with James LaBrie’s singing. Lot of people are, but maybe I’m just dense – I don’t get it at all. Or more likely, I’ve focused so much on the brilliant playing of instruments that I find his voice an unnecessary distraction. Even as I write, I think I’ll try and give him a fair hearing. Anyway, for now I’ve cut out his voice in the sample from the first part “It’s Raining” of the 3-part “Trial Of Tears”. I do like the lines of the song though:
I know the air is cold
I know the streets are cruel
But I’ll enjoy the ride today
It’s raining, raining
Pity about the singing.
Avial is one of those Indian bands that has managed to blend the soul of Indian music with hard-edged rock very fluently. They were among the early braves who chose to sing in their own language, Malayalam rather than in English. Sadly, they’ve released only one album. Again a familiar story in this part of the world – anything other than film music is a difficult sell. Thankfully, things are getting better. “Karukara” evokes scenes of rumbling dark thunderclouds, pouring rains and rainbows in the aftermath. This is a personal favourite and I love it for the imagery and the brilliant melding of traditional Malayalam folk music from Kerala, reverberating rock, funk and a modern jazz ending. Beautiful. I’ve only included a sample of the song. I’d strongly recommend a full listen on their artiste page. Do check out the rest but this song specifically is at 11 in the list as of now.