September 26, 2015

Ali Akbar Khan [EMI ECSD 2587] (1979)

Here we have an excellent LP by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan with Pandit Swapan Chowdury on tabla.

At this point Swapanji had taken over for Zakir Hussain as the main tabla instructor at the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, CA, after Zakirji's hectic performance schedule no longer allowed him to fulfill his teaching commitments.

There is a school of thought which posits that Khansahib should have stayed in Calcutta and helped his school there to flourish, rather than spend more and more time in California, where (admittedly) there were more dollars and more sports cars. You can find plenty of articles on the internet describing in minute detail Khansahib's supposed decline in terms of his creativity and playing and bemoaning the "good old days" of the 1940s and 1950s.

It's always easier to be a superhero musician when almost no one is recording your performances. People can tell anecdotes about brilliant private house concerts which put to shame anything recently released, without there being any evidence to contradict them. When you start releasing 4 or 5 albums a year, you are exposed to a lot more scrutiny. Certainly, there is a somewhat commercial aspect to albums entitled "Music for Meditation" and a surprising stopwatch quality to others entitled "The 40 Minute Alap" and "The 80 Minute Raga."

What cannot be denied, however, is that Khansahib was a primary musical force in 20th century Hindustani classical music. He helped popularize it in the West and taught many individuals who themselves would go on to become respected teachers. Besides, when one considers the fact that Nikhil Banerjee considered himself a disciple of Ali Akbar Khan, that is all I really need to know in order to greatly respect him.

This LP, recorded for EMI at an undisclosed location (probably India, but there were recording studios in California at the time, too) was released in 1979. It has an iconic cover with a brilliant repeating design and was pressed at the Gramophone Company's plant in Dum Dum, India.

side1:
Raga Suha-Todi
(Compositions in Jhaptal and Trital)

side2:
Raga Chhayanat
(Alap and compositions in Trital)






Equipment used in transfer: 
Preparation: Ultrasonic cleaning for 10 minutes in water, followed by a  quick vacuum drying with a VPI 16.5 cleaning machine
Turntable:  Audio-technica AT-LP-1240
Cartridge: Shure M97x
Pre-amplification: Vintage refurbished Pioneer SX-780.

Recorder: Edirol R-09HR at 24bit/44.1kHz resolution
Software: Audacity to normalize and carefully remove one or two clicks per side using the "repair" tool. No change in EQ was made. Conversion to 16/44.1 took place in Audacity. xAct was used to convert to FLAC and mp3. So-called "noise removal" was avoided in order to best preserve the dynamic nuances and tone quality of the original sound. 







here is a live video of Khansahib, Swapanji and Mary Khan on tanpura

Here is another, different transfer from a blog post published in 2011



September 17, 2015

Kabir Khan - Mellow Moment on Sitar [Oscar Records PIKA-23] (1978)

Here is my final LP from the somewhat mysterious Oscar Records label. They issued a half dozen LPs in the late 1970s and early 1980s and were based out of New York. There were a few live albums of ghazals from singer Mehdi Hassan. One of popular Pakistani film songs. Then there was no more. It seems they had some sort of contact with EMI Pakistan -- probably help with recording, or else allowing people out of exclusive recording contracts, or something else. There is no evidence for a belief I once held that these were US releases of licensed EMI Pakistan recordings.

There is not much information I could find about Ustad Kabir Khan. He was born in Jaipur in 1924 and died in Karachi in 1980. He is considered to be a member of the Senia Gharana and according to one reference book ("Who's Who: Music in Pakistan"), he counted Ali Akbar Khan and Amjad Ali Khan (both sarod players) as teachers. [Certainly Nikhilji did not mind having two sarod players as gurus.] He appears to have a son who is active musically in Pakistan.

This is from near the end of that dark era when mentioning the name of the tabla player on an LP was considered optional and possibly a waste of time.

The track titles are as follows:

Side 1:
Raga Mian Ki Todi
Peelo (possibly Raga Pilu?)

Side 2:
Raga Multani
Raga Paraj

I would like to thank my internet friend and fellow music lover "Tawfiq" for discussing this label and this LP with me offline. As always his blog is self-recommending and its latest post is noted at right. He also has a superb store on Discogs.com. He might be the most reliable supplier of new-old-stock Indian Classical LPs on the planet. This LP was purchased from a different seller on discogs. LPs from this label only rarely show up on internet sites and only once have I seen one in person before paying for it (that LP was also posted on this blog -- take a look for it!)





Equipment used in transfer: 
Preparation: Ultrasonic cleaning for 10 minutes in water, followed by a quick vacuum drying with a VPI 16.5 cleaning machine
Turntable:  Audio-technica AT-LP-1240
Cartridge: Shure M97x

Pre-amplification: Vintage refurbished Pioneer SX-780.

Recorder: Edirol R-09HR at 24bit/44.1kHz resolution
Software: Audacity to normalize and carefully remove a few clicks on each side. No change in EQ was made. Conversion to 16/44.1 took place in Audacity. xAct was used to convert to FLAC and mp3. So-called "noise removal" was avoided in order to best preserve the dynamic nuances and tone quality of the original sound. The record is visually in excellent shape but unfortunately there is some faint surface noise still present in the transfer. 






September 12, 2015

Debabrata Chaudhuri - [SMFP 2101] Meditations in Indian Sitar Music (1968)

Heads up!

Check out the newly remastered and re-uploaded post for this enjoyable LP.

This particular transfer fell of the zippy share file service and there were several anonymous people requesting a re-upload.

I remastered the original digital transfer, using very gentle setting on "Click Repair. The result should be worth re-downloading and eliminating your old files.










September 11, 2015

M Balamurali Krishna [ECLP 2324] Classical Songs of MBK (1966)

Heads up!

Check out the newly remastered and re-uploaded post for this enjoyable LP.


This particular transfer fell of the zippy share file service and there were several anonymous people requesting a re-upload.


I remastered the original digital transfer, using very gentle setting on "Click Repair. The result should be worth re-downloading and eliminating your old files.

---------------------------------------

M Balamuralikrishna was born in 1930 and by the age of 8 was singing publicly. He is one of the great Carnatic vocalists of the 20th century and we are lucky to have so many recordings by him. He was not just interested in performing classical and devotional works -- he sang in Indian films regularly between 1957 and 1997. He is still alive and occasionally performs.

This LP is a delightful sample of his work released in 1966. The songs (all in Adi Taal) are as follows:

side 1:
1) Saraguna (raga = Thodi)
2) Mahadeva Sutham (raga = Arabi)
3) Manu Kanna Thalli (raga = Sindu Kannada)
4) Sadhathava Pada (raga = Shanmugapriya)

side 2:
1) Nanupalimpa (raga = Mohanam)
2) Pibare Ramarasam (raga = Ahir Bairavi)
3) Thillana (raga = Brindavani)

Violin is by MS Gopalakrishnan
Mridangam is by TV Gopalakrishna






The technical information is exactly the same as the previous post (I transferred them at the same session).

One charming thing about this copy is the odd inscription in ink on the back: "Borchers from Subu" -- possibly a reference to MS Subulakshmi? Hmm. If anybody has an educated guess, feel free to share it with me.


September 9, 2015

Debu Chaudhuri: Sitar Maestro [ABK2001] (1970-71)

Here is an interesting find, appearing to be Debu's second LP to be issued in the West and the first in the US. The label, ABK Records, is a mystery. I prefer to imagine it being related to Allen B Klein's ABKO Records, which issued many of the Rolling Stones and (for a time, reissued) Beatles albums. But this seems very unlikely.

What is known is that Debu was born in 1935 and he was a disciple of the great Mushtaq Ali Khan. He still lives in Dehli and performs regularly.

The pieces on this LP include:

side1:
Rageshree

side 2:
Thumri in Pilu
Folk Song

Tabla is by Shyamal Bose

Here is a short youtube clip of Debu playing Raga Pilu





Equipment used in transfer: 
Preparation: Ultrasonic cleaning for 20 minutes in water, followed by a  quick vacuum drying with a VPI 16.5 cleaning machine
Turntable:  Audio-technica AT-LP-1240
Cartridge: Shure M97x
Pre-amplification: Vintage refurbished Pioneer SX-780.
Recorder: Edirol R-09HR at 24bit/44.1kHz resolution
Software: Audacity to normalize and carefully remove one or two clicks per side. No change in EQ was made. Conversion to 16/44.1 took place in Audacity. xAct was used to convert to FLAC and mp3. So-called "noise removal" was avoided in order to best preserve the dynamic nuances and tone quality of the original sound. The record is visually in superb shape but unfortunately there is some surface noise still present in the transfer. Considering the rarity of the reload, I hope my readers will understand.



September 5, 2015

MS Subbulakshmi: Surdas Bhajans [EMI PSLP 1391] (1986)

This transfer has been superseded by a new transfer -- please check out the following post here.

Also you can find a transfer made by the legendary and very nice blogmeister "Bolingo" here.





May 5, 2015

Kartick Kumar - Music from India [DG 2726 017] (1968-9)

Here is a 2 LP set from the "DG Privilege" label. It certainly is a privilege to be able to listen to these two LPs of music by sitarist Kartick Kumar. The first LP was originally issued by the Heliodor label [89843] and I am not sure about the original issue of the second LP.

The contents are as follows:

Side 1: Raga Basant Mukhari
Side 2: Raga Marwa and Raga Kafi Dhun
Side 3: Raga Malkauns
Side 4: Dhun Jhinjhoti and Raga Bhairawi

The tabla accompaniment is by SV Patwardhan.







Preparation: VPI 16.5 cleaning machine
Turntable:  Audio-technica AT-LP-1240
Cartridge: Shure M97x
Pre-amplification: Vintage refurbished Pioneer SX-780.

Recorder: Tascam DR-70D at 24bit/44.1kHz resolution
Software: Audacity to normalize and carefully remove a few clicks as well as convert to 16/44.1. xAct was used to convert to FLAC and mp3. "Noise removal" was avoided in order to best preserve the dynamic nuances, instrumental harmonics, and tone quality of the original sound.







April 19, 2015

Record Store Day 2015

I guess what I've heard so often really is true: nobody cares about record shops and vinyl LPs anymore. 

As evidence of this sad fact, please see a few photos from Record Store Day at one of the five record stores in my little village. This particular store only sells vinyl (with maybe quite literally a few dozen cassettes and CDs thrown in). 

I got there around 4pm and the owner told me they had been wall-to-wall crowded with customers since opening at noon. I didn't bother going to any of the other record stores because I didn't want to fight the crowds looking for their Kate Bush picture disks. There were two live musical acts and a surprising amount of wine and cheese on offer as well.






So many vinyl releases are planned for RSD each year in the US that pressing plants are booked up solid for the first four months of the year. I've read several articles this year featuring independent label owners bewailing this fact and saying that they cannot release or repress any LPs until May every year. 

I think I should  take this opportunity to mention that the name of this blog is a direct reference to a delightful record store in East Lansing, Michigan: "Flat, Black and Circular" (FBC) opened in the late 1970s and still is in existence. I used to visit there pretty much every single day (as well as the now-gone Wazoo Records) back in the 1980s.

And, to cap off this post, a beautiful video courtesy of the AACM Library in San Rafael, CA.

 

April 11, 2015

Ali Akbar Khan + John Handy + Zakir Hussain live at the 1972 Berlin Jazz Festival (1972-11-03)

Here is an over-the-air FM recording of a performance by Ali Akbar Khan and tabla maestro Zakir Hussain together with alto sax player John Handy. These three, together with a few guest musicians such as guitarist Bola Sete released two LPs in the 1970s on the MPS label.

Some people will enjoy this sort of material and some won't. Likely you know which camp you are in. For what it is worth, the FM capture is pretty good for being 43 years ago.



This was downloaded from a fairly well known torrent site devoted to live music of all sorts. If one were to Google the word "Dimeadozen," I am sure that one would run into their site pretty quickly.

The original text file (with some editing by me) is as follows:

John Handy & Ali Akbar Khan
November 3, 1972
West Berlin, Germany

Track List (1:02:22):
1. Unknown - 23:34
2. Unknown - 11:58
3. Unknown - 16:11
4. Unknown - 10:37

Musicians:
John Handy - alto saxophone
Ali Akbar Khan - sarod
Zakir Hussain - tabla

Source:
pre-FM

Lineage:
pre-FM reel >? >DAT >HDD via coax to Midiman Audiophile 2496 @48 kHz >CoolEdit Pro 2.0 >CD Wave >Trader's Little Helper >FLAC (level 6, ASB)

I feel that I should point out that the text file claims this to be a "pre-FM" -- that is, a direct dub of the tape that was recorded at the concert and then played on the air. It sounds more like a regular FM capture to me, although it may simply be that there are a number of analog generations (cassette copies of cassettes being traded among collectors) as represented by the "?" in the lineage. There was some static which was carefully removed in Audacity and overall I am fairly happy with the resulting sound.



Karuna is usually translated as "compassion" and I think that is close enough to what it means that I don't feel like splitting hairs about it.






April 8, 2015

Kartick and Niladri Kumar - Where Tradition Meets Innovation [Magnasound Cassette C4HI0066] (1989)

Kartick Kumar is one of Ravi Shankar's most senior disciples and a very talented (if under-recorded) sitarist. His son Niladri appears on this cassette as an eager 18 year old with plenty of promise. He seems to mostly be doing fusion and such these days.

The first side of the cassette suffers from excessive brightness and a quite noticeable volume disparity between the left and right channels. These issues had to be (very reluctantly) addressed with EQ and normalization of both channels independently in Audacity. Otherwise the listenability of the side would be minimal. Side 2 is much better, with a fuller and more balanced (in right to left terms) sound.

Many Magnasound releases seem to be available on Amazon.com as mp3 downloads; I encourage anyone interested in these to pursue those. There is a website for Magnasound which seems to promise more activity in the future -- I hope there can be some CD reissues in the future.

Also posted here is the oddly charming advertisement included with the cassette -- see below.








Equipment used in transfer: 
Cassette Deck: TEAC W-890
Pre-amplification: Vintage refurbished Pioneer SX-780.

Recorder: Edirol R-09HR at 24/44 resolution
Software: Audacity to normalize both channels separately and EQ the first side (reduce high frequencies) as well as convert to 16/44.1. xAct was used to convert to FLAC and mp3







March 31, 2015

Brij Narayan [PolJazz PSJ-89] an LP recorded in India and released in Poland in 1980 (new transfer)

Brij Narayan (born 25 April 1952 in UdaipurRajasthanIndia) is the oldest son of Ram Narayan and also the nephew of tabla maestro Chatur Lal, under whom he started studies. After the death of Lal he moved to the sarod and continues to perform to this day.

This LP, which was recorded in 1980 at India's National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Bombay, does not seem to have shown up anywhere other than in Poland. It seems to have been issued by the Polish Jazz Society. (I should note that Jazz is still very widely admired in Poland and several of my acquaintances who are jazz musicians have found quite a warm and welcoming reception there.)


I had not heard of the album before my friend Nels loaned it to me for digitalization -- thanks, Nels!


Side A: Raga Puriya Kalyan (19:35)

Side B: Raga Jogiva (13:25) and Raga Misra Pilu (6:30)

Tabla by Suresh Talwalker.









Here is a short video of Brij Narayan playing at a house concert




Equipment used in transfer: 
Turntable: Audio-technica AT-LP-1240
Cartridge: Shure M97x
Pre-amplification: Vintage refurbished Pioneer SX-780

Recorder: Edirol R-09HR at 24/48 resolution
For the new transfer, I kept the original 24bit, 48kHz files and used ClickRepair at a minimal setting to just eliminate some of the more obvious grunge-y sounds. I then used Audacity to down sample to 1644 and xAct to encode to mp3 and to FLAC.




(high resolution file ideal for listening on computer or certain portable players)


(standard resolution file ideal for burning a CDR)


(highest possible quality compressed file ideal for listening on a portable player)


March 4, 2015

Manually adjusting azimuth when playing and transferring cassette tapes


One difficulty encountered when transferring cassette tapes to a digital medium is the issue of proper azimuth alignment. Essentially, this boils done to differences in the direction the play head in the machine is aligned with when tape is passing over it. The goal is to have the same alignment as the original machine which made the recording. This will not be possible in 99% of cases, unless you are using the same deck. 

Here is one excellent article and a fine video on this subject. Anyone who is very serious about helping to preserve recorded musical culture will hopefully be motivated to take a few minutes to read a couple of other articles as well. 




YouTube video on how to manually adjust azimuth


Ashish Khan - Young Master of the Sarod [World Pacific WPS-21444] (1967)

Ashish (also spelled "Aashish") Khan is son of Ali Akbar Khan and grandson of the great Allauddin Khan. He was born 5 December 1939 in Maihar, India and currently lives and teaches in both Calcutta and California. In 2006 he was nominated for a Grammy Award, which is a big deal to professional Indian musicians and, as far as I can tell, no one else. Being a disciple of Ali Akbar Khan is a much greater honor than any ridiculous miniature statue the Grammy's can provide!

This World Pacific LP was released in 1967 and features liner notes signed by George Harrison. This particular copy is visually immaculate but featured some prominent clicks in quiet passages and a subtle "crunchy noise" in the louder passages of side 2. After a thorough and gentle cleaning of the vinyl, the clicks were individually and carefully dealt with in Audacity. Unfortunately noise that is within the spectrum of the music is very difficult to eradicate and I chose to leave it alone rather than mar the essential beauty of the performance.

Tabla is by the great Alla Rakha.



Equipment used in transfer: 
Turntable: Audio-technica AT-LP-1240
Cartridge: Shure M97x
Pre-amplification: Vintage refurbished Pioneer SX-780.

Recorder: Edirol R-09HR at 24/48 resolution

Software: Audacity to normalize and carefully remove a few clicks as well as convert to 16/44.1. xAct was used to convert to FLAC and mp3













(suitable for listening on computer and other devices capable of playing high resolution files)

(suitable for burning a CDR)

(highest possible quality compressed file for portable devices such as iPod and smartphones)


January 31, 2015

Ravi Shankar: Music From India Series [ASD 2341] and LP recored in India in 1967 and later reissued in England

What can one really say about Ravi Shankar that has not been said many times before, and much better? Nothing. He is and always will be the best known Indian Classical musician. Heck, even my mother knows who Ravi Shankar was. (She also knows other sitarists, but that is a story for another time).

This delightful album was recorded and released by EMI in 1967.

Tabla is by the ever capable and always reliable Alla Rakha. Kamala plays tanpura. "Kamala" means "Lotus," I think.

Equipment used in transfer: 
Turntable: Audio-technica AT-LP-1240
Cartridge: Shure M97x
Pre-amplification: Vintage refurbished Pioneer SX-780.

Recorder: Edirol R-09HR at 24/44.1 resolution
Software: Audacity to normalize and convert to 16/44.1 as well as xAct to convert to flac and mp3