L. Shankar — Chepleeri Dream
(Cleopatra CLO1594, 2020, CD / LP / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2021-03-03
When I first encountered violinist L. Shankar, I immediately fell in love with his distinctive sound, which bridged Indian classical playing with jazz and rock sensibilities. Plus he had that cool double-necked electric violin. His work with Shakti, Peter Gabriel, Echo and the Bunnymen, and many more cemented his place in my heart. Several of his solo albums are excellent as well, so it was with some hopeful anticipation that I approached Chepleeri Dream. This album presents 11 vocal tracks with a somewhat generic pop style and far too little violin to hold my interest. All of the vocals are heavily processed, with lots of apparent Autotune applied, and are mixed very high compared to the instruments. It almost seems like Shankar has decided at the age of 70 that he wants to be a mainstream pop star after decades of success in jazz and as a sideman. I’m all for breaking pop music out of the barriers of generational expectations, but Chepleeri Dream doesn’t work for me. It has many of the trappings of a good album, with some good beats and funky bass, along with the occasional cool violin break, but they are not assembled into a whole that succeeds in engaging me. It’s possible that if he’d engaged a better singer, the songs would draw me in, but as it stands, I just can’t recommend the album.
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