Sunday, February 26, 2012

Happy Birthday Songs for George Harrison: Bonzo Dog Band and K.S. Chitra

George Harrison

Yesterday was George Harrison’s birthday. If he were alive he would be 69 years old.  I recently saw Martin Scorcese’s Harrison bio-pic, Living in the Material World, which had nary a dull moment in the entire three and half hours.  As a kid I thought George to be the most handsome Beatle.  His chiseled features, full moustache and long hair reminded me of my eldest brother and it was a look I tried to emulate for (too) many years.  But beyond his good looks I had little appreciation for him as a musician and man.  By the end of the film I was deeply impressed not just with his ace guitar playing but his spirituality, which he approached with seriousness and good humor, and his catholic interests.  Everything from Formula 1 to filmmaking, to gardening and Monty Python.

In honor of the Quiet Beatle I post two albums that reflect two different sides of his personality.

When the producers of Monty Python’s Life of Brian pulled out of the project at the final moment, George Harrison came to the rescue, mortgaged his house and started a long and successful career as a film producer. He loved the Python’s and before them, he and his Beatle mates were pally with the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band,  the musical equivalent of the Pythons.

Besides, perhaps, the Mothers of Invention (with whom they were sometimes compared), the Bonzo Dog Band were the most successful group to combine rock music and comedy. Starting off as the Bonzo Dog Dada Band, then becoming the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, and then finally just the Bonzo Dog Band, the group was started by British art college students in the mid-'60s. Initially they were inclined toward trad jazz and vaudevillian routines, but by the time of their 1967 debut album, they were leaning further in pop and rock directions. A brief appearance in the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour film bolstered their visibility, and Paul McCartney (under the pseudonym Apollo C. Vermouth) produced their single "I'm the Urban Spaceman," which reached the British Top Five in 1968. The Bonzos really hit their stride with their second and third albums, which found them adding elements of psychedelia to their already-absurdist mix of pop, cabaret, and Dada. The Bonzos could be side-splitting, but their records held up well because they were also capable musicians and songwriters, paced by Neil Innes and Viv Stanshall (both of whom wrote the lion's share of their best material). The group attempted to move into more serious and musical realms with their 1969 LP Keynsham, which, unsurprisingly, was acclaimed as their weakest effort. They broke up shortly afterward; Viv Stanshall made some obscure solo recordings (he was also the grandstanding narrator on Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells"). Neil Innes collaborated with members of Monty Python, upon whom the Bonzos were a large influence, as well as writing the songs for and performing in the Beatles documentary spoof, The Rutles. (AMG)

This collection includes many (not all, sadly) of their best sides and from the opening track to the end you’ll be guffawing, smiling and snickering.  My faves: Shirt, Intro and Outro, Hunting Tigers Out in INDIAH  and Can Blue Men Sing the Whites? But so many great songs here.

            Track Listing:
            01 The Intro And The Outro
02 Ali Baba's Camel
03 Hello Mabel
04 Kama Sutra
05 Hunting Tigers Out In 'INDIAH'
06 Shirt
07 I'm Bored
08 Rockaliser Baby
09 Rhinocratic Oaths
10 Tent
11 Beautiful Zelda
12 Can Blue Men Sing The Whites
13 The Bride Stripped Bare By 'Bachelors'
14 Look At Me, I'm Wonderful
15 Canyons Of Your Mind
16 Mr. Apollo
17 Trouser Press
18 Ready-Mades
19 We Are Normal
20 I'm The Urban Spaceman
21 Trouser Freak
22 The Sound Of Music
23 Suspicion
24 Big Shot

Listen here

George Harrison’s life long commitment to Hindu philosophy and mystical practice is honored by a collection of Krishna bhajans by the Malayali singer K.S. Chitra. Born on July 27, 1963, in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, into a family of musicians, Chitra’s talent was recognized and nurtured from an early age by her father, the late Krishnan Nair. He was also her first guru (teacher). Her elder sister K. S. Beena is also a singer who has performed in many films as a playback singer.
Chitra received her extensive training in Carnatic music from Dr. K. Omanakutty, and got a Masters in Music from the University of Kerala. She was selected for the National Talent Search Scholarship from the Central Government from 1978–1984.

Chitra has enjoyed a strong career as a playback singer in South Indian films but is equally recognized for her devotional and classical repertoire. This record is from a live concert and gives an excellent demonstration of her beautiful vocals.

            Track Listing:
Chitha Chora
Ganesha Sloka Madhuramu Kada
Jai Jai Jai Sai Janani
Koi Kahio Re
Krishna Nee Begane Baro
Mhara Re Giridhar Gopal
Nach Rahi Meera
Pashupati Tanaya

Listen here.

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