The sophmore album from Ravi?s nephew (and, allegedly, Jimi Hendrix?s sitar teacher) was recorded and only released in India in 1975. Shankar incorporates rock and funk beats into his traditional, meditative Indian material, eschewing the straightforward sitar interpretations of the hits of the day of his first album for these nine self-penned tracks. The album surprisingly opens with a bubbling Moog, throbbing bass, chunky guitar and pounding drums of ?Streets of Calcutta,? with his sitar only peering in occasionally. Wordless female vocals and lilting flute highlight the swaying ?Cyrus,? with Shankar?s sitar once again assuming a ?filler? role. There?s a snappy, Ennio Morricone-ish, spaghetti western-cum-spy film vibe to ?The Lonely Rider? and another lonely, lilting, lovely flute solo drags the melody along ?The River? as it winds its way along the canyons of your mind on top of a rather charming, loungey backbeat. Once again, Morricone?s spaghetti western soundtracks seem to be an appropriate reference point. Add another touch of wordless, female vocals and I?m in heaven!
Up to this point, Shankar?s sitar has made brief, almost peremptory appearances, but ?Vidai (Parting? is the first overtly Eastern-flavored track, with a weaving violin matching Shankar?s sitar, which for the first time is not relegated to a background instrument. Side two of the original album opens with the lengthy contemplation, ?Dawn,? which finds him employing his sitar in the more traditional format as opposed to the more rock-based usage over on side one, and the more astute listener may recognize the rolling, descending bassline from Led Zeppelin?s ?Misty Mountain Hop!?
So, while the album is certainly entertaining in a light psych/soft rock/loungey sort of way, listeners should be aware that it is not overly drenched in sitar ? strange for a solo album from such an acknowledged master. This, of course, may be a plus for most folks who are not interested in listening to an album overly dominated with the mysterious, albeit soothing instrument. Definitely a keeper worth checking out.
Shankar would go on to record many more albums and enjoy a renaissance two decades later when DJs and musicians extracted many samples from his work, but sadly his career was cut short by a terminal heart attack in 1999 at the all too early age of 56, just as his double album, ?Walking On,? which saw him incorporating breakbeats and hip-hop into his music was being released. 7/10 -- Jeff Penczak (23 January, 2007)