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. 


24 bit 44.1kHz FLAC files

16bit 44.1kHz FLAC files

320 kbps mp3 files



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 23, 2015

A behind-the-scenes peek at a music blog

One thing I have learned over and over about running a music blog (even a modest one like FBC) is that it is very hard work. I have a huge amount of admiration for people who can post music on a regular basis. Some of the blogs on the right side of this page are even updated almost daily, which to me is mind boggling.

Please allow me to indulge myself by giving you just one example of something that has happened several times....

Quite recently I played host at my house for the second time to one of Kartick Kumar's senior disciples. He made a delightful chicken biryani for my family and went to sleep early. He told us several entertaining anecdotes about his training in India and early experiences touring the US. Not only is this unnamed sitarist one of my favorite musicians, he is also just about the most relaxed and easygoing musician I know in any field of music. Talking with him got me thinking about his beloved guru Pandit Kartick Kumar, and the fact that I have an LP released by T-series (see pictures of the LP cover below) which has not yet appeared on this blog. It was recorded in 1991, reissued on T-series' budget label Evergreen in 2000, and purchased by me in 2015 from a seller on Discogs.com.

After transferring the LP and scanning the LP cover and labels, I had a lot of repair work to do. The cover itself was stained and abused and this needed to be mended using both iPhoto and Photoshop (don't ask). The record itself looks spotless but was one of the noisiest I have played on my turntable in years. There were five or six "invisible scratches" -- repeating loud clicks at regular intervals -- per side that needed to be repaired, as well as numerous (maybe 70 or 80) smaller clicks and noises that were removed per side using the "repair" function in Audacity. It was exhausting, and also frustrating because no matter how many I removed there always seemed to be more that needed removing somewhere else on each side.

In short, I became a victim of the "sunk cost" fallacy, where one says, "I have spent so much time [or money] on this effort that I can't just leave it the way it is. I need to keep working on it." It's called a fallacy because it's a stupid way of thinking. It's a common fallacy, one that traps so many people so often, whether it is concerning one's marriage, one's job, a half-read book that is supposed to be good but is not, or this would-be post of a Kartick Kumar LP.

Well, I kept on working and even (against my usual rules) started messing around with mild limiting and compression to get a better sound.

Then -- and only then! -- it occurred to me that possibly there would have been a CD issue of it in 2000 and possibly this might still be in print. It seems kind of obvious when one thinks of it, right? A quick look at www.shrimatis.com (truly a boon to those in the US looking for hard to find Indian CDs of every flavor) and BOOM there it was. For about $5.00 USD. And with 24 minutes more music than the LP.

I received the disk in the mail today and it sounds excellent. Not an audiophile production by any stretch of the imagination, but quite solid and far better than my LP transfer even after all the time I spent working it over!

So will I post my transfer anyway?       No.

Believe me, the CD is what you want. Pick it up from the guys at Shrimati's or another dealer in your home country. I truly am only doing this blog to help preserve the music and share my passion for what to many people is still an undiscovered country. There is no intention of hurting the sales of in-print Indian Classical CDs and LPs. Even when certain labels fail to pay royalties and fail to even send contractually required royalty statements to their musicians (and I know the details of what I am talking about here).

Thanks for reading this post. I will be back within a week with the first of a series of five LPs by Ali Akbar Khan on the Connoisseur label and one on the EMI label which I have had on loan from my friend Nels for too long. To Nels: your babies are coming back home soon!

Also, please note that I will be using Adrive.com from now on and offering transfers in three choices of flavor:

24bit/44.1kHz FLAC (playable from the hard drive of a computer), and
16bit/44.1kHz FLAC (after converting to WAV, suitable for burning CDs) and
320kbps mp3.

Adrive offers larger file sizes and also the files will be available until either I pull them, stop paying the $25 a year to Adrive, or they get shut down in a dramatic and unfair FBI operation.

Onward! And much much much much more carefully next time!






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)

Debu Chaudhuri was last seen in this blog a few posts ago with his second LP issued in the West. This, I believe is his first LP to be released in the West, on the EMI budget label called "Music for Pleasure." Unlike a lot of MFP albums, this seems to be an original production and not a reissue.

There was definitely a craze going on in 1966 and 1967 for the sitar, especially given the attentions brought to it by groups like the Beatles and (less famously) the Rolling Stones.

Tabla on the LP is by Faiyaz Khan.

side 1: Raga Maru Behag

side 2: Raga Ahir Bhairav









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 multiple 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 excellent shape but unfortunately there is some noticeable surface noise still present in the transfer. 


September 11, 2015

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

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) [I would think this would be the last song]
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 ABKCO 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 is a disciple of the great Ustad 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 multiple 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 noticeable surface noise still present in the transfer. Considering the rarity of the release, 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.