Quality: 5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.75 out of 5
One would expect much from a collaboration between Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, two of India's most revered classical musicians, and this album does not disappoint. Shankar is probably the most visible Indian musician to westerners, and of course has done much to bring that music to the West. Khan is the 20th century participant in a family chain of master sarod players (the sarod is a sort of Indian lute) which stretches back to the 16th century. This music is firmly grounded in Indian musical traditions, and manages a rarified mystical aura that only the best musicians can achieve. I'm not sure on the particulars of this set (1995 is simply the tag on my files), but I believe that the first two tracks are from concert recordings in the early 70's, while the third track is a bonus track. Feel free to correct me.
Both the recording quality and the intensity of the music seems to build throughout this album. "Raga Palas Kafi" evokes primordial awakenings, with the string players weaving around each other mostly unaccompanied (some tabla begins pulsing in the last few minutes). There is far more tabla in "Raga Bilashkani Todi," allowing the music to ground itself a little more after floating through the vapors of the first track. It's worth noting that Shankar and Khan manage a perfect synergy, with neither pushing forward too much, but both making their musical identities clear. The third track, "Bangla Dhun," has a much more festive, lively sound, with very defined melody lines and a jolly roll to the tabla beat.
Regular readers of this blog are probably aware that I consider Indian music to be just as, if not more psychedelic, than the freakiest of 60's rock. This album has nothing but the ethereal sounds of Indian classical music, but it is definitely music that speaks directly to your mind's eye. It doesn't get much better than this with two masters performing at the top of their game, so I can recommend it without reservation.