Sunday, 2 February 2014

Review: Remember Shakti - The Believer

After near-reforming the superb seventies group Shakti, minus a member but with some added new ones, John McLaughlin and Zakir Hussain's new Remember Shakti debuted to outstanding live praise. and much critical admiration for the subsequent live double album.

'The Believer' continues the musical magic with this time just a single-disc seventy-seven minute document of how the band were progressing throughout the summer of 1999. By now the band had changed to still feature McLaughlin and Hussain on guitar and tabla respectively, but now joined by U. Srinivas on mandolin and V. Selvaganesh on kanjira and ghatam.

The sound then is noticeably different from that of the first Remember Shakti effort, as are also the shorter compositions. While before numbers ebbed and flowed their way to half an hour or even a whole hour in length, here everything sits compactly between the seven and twenty minute mark, with most not rising above fifteen.

'Lotus Feet' is the only number to be repeated from 'Remember Shakti', but in true Shakti and true jazz fashion it is remarkably different. Similarly the more dedicated fan may recognise one or two of the chosen themes, but the sheer stunning improvisational art of each man remakes everything here to sound completely new. The tight interaction between the quartet creates a strong sense of telepathy, and you can also feel the comfortable and relaxed friendship between the group in the music.

Guitar and mandolin intensive, McLaughlin and Srinivas are good musical foils and bring out the best in each other, much like the way the guitarist with L. Shankar and his violin did twenty years earlier. And it is this that presents the best case for 'The Believer'. Both Remember Shakti albums are incredible and impassioned performances worth the time of any fan of either McLaughlin or Shakti, and while the first obviously offers more in size, both sets offer distinct different sounds and approaches that are sure to inspire anyone who enjoys this high level of compositional and improvisational performance.


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