July 29, 2016

Yehudi Menuhin & Ravi Shankar - West Meets East (1966)


When I was a kid, my favorite song off of Revolver was Love You To and one of my favorite songs on Sgt. Pepper's was Within You Without You. What's there not to like about tamboura and sitar resonance? Simply some of the most pleasing sounds to ever grace the planet. I know absolutely nothing about Indian classical music, but I tend to think George Harrison brings as much greatness to the sitar as a white outsider can possibly bring. It's impressive how much he dedication he put forth in learning the instrument, but hearing his mentor, Ravi Shankar, play is other-worldly. I also grew up listening the hell out of a four disc set of Yehudin Menuhin playing the greatest violin concertos. I'm also not very knowledgeable about many classical musicians, but from what I have heard, Menuhin is by far my favorite violinist. West Meets East is an awful title for this album. It should have been titled Conversation In Heaven Between The Sitar And Violin Gods. Not only does Shankar extinguish George Harrison's honest efforts as easily as stepping out a lit cigarette butt, but Menuhin also puts Harrison to shame with how well he interprets Indian music with his western perspective. I'm not sure if there's some story behind this partnership, but it sounds like Menuhin and Shankar had been playing for years and years before this album was ever recorded. The little microtonal flares and licks (or whatever they are) on the violin are impeccable; Menuhin had a long-time appreciation for Indian culture and spirituality and probably practiced the hell out of scales and traditional sounds before recording West Meets East. Incredible album, even the breathtaking technical skill takes a backseat to the emotional chemistry shared between these two masters. Probably very influential to the expansion of psychedelic rock.

Sample

West Meets East