Welcome to Raja's Pretension Palace... for those in relentless pursuit of eternal damnation

To seek asylum here, thy shall embrace HIS MAJESTY's opinions as laws and thy shall never commit those sins that HIS MAJESTY forbids!!!

"And if you listen very hard the tune will come to you at last" - Stairway To Heaven

If I were to know that I would soon be stranded on a beautiful remote island with lots of booze and food, what music albums would I pack? You know the kind that would keep me warm company while I construct that elusive escape boat with turtle skeleton, shark skin, whale bones and coconut shells.

This "desert island collection" idea led me down an inspirational path of discovering obscure gems. When I started on this venture a decade ago, I wouldn't have guessed that I would come up with something this massive. It was initially a top 100 until I realized that it was mostly showcasing the few rock acts I love. I could have stopped then and obnoxiously declared those were the best ever; thus, unintentionally showing the world how narrow my tastes were. But somewhere down the line, I chose not to be a juvenile prick; decided to listen to different styles - even the ones I didn't like. I raised it to 333 and was settled with this idea for about three years. But then one day I decided - enough is enough - 333 is not enough! I realized that all that pruning was arbitrary and a vain attempt to keep it manageable. I decided to go all out. Why 333? Because I like the number 3? I like the number 7 even more. Why not 777? It is the jackpot number and means something (chmod 777) in my world. It is considered as a perfection of trinity. I was born in '77. It all made perfect sense!

Every continent has been explored - even Antartica; even lands that are not sovereign countries - 100 countries spanning a 100-year period - quite the coverage, isn't it? I challenge you to find a broader list. I ran into a problem, though. At what point do I decide I have heard enough? It was quite the conundrum; so, I set a deadline. And that deadline was today - Jan 20th, 2020.

Before you read further, there are few things for you to keep in mind. I will list them in bullet points to help those suffering from attention deficiency disorder.
* I do not claim universal music knowledge. It's impossible to listen to every album ever made.
* This is not a music history lesson. This is not a greatest artist list and am not comparing artists.
* Don't scroll down! Would you read the end of a whodunnit, first? Consider this as a book!

What is a masterpiece?

A masterpiece achieves all the artistic goals it sought. It need not be an epic, make a statement or be influential. If an album spawned a host of imitators, it might have been trivial to begin with! To make it broad, I decided that only artists who made significantly different sounding masterpieces are eligible for multiple entries. This resulted in only ten artists having such distinction.

(1.000) (0.777) (0.333)

Dúlamán (2015)
1 Dúlamán (4:34) ♕♕
2 Cumha Eoghain Rua Uí Néill (4:09) ♕♕
3 Two Sisters (4:13)♕♕
4 Éirigh Suas a Stóirín (5:14) ♕♕
5 The Galtee Hunt (3:09) ♕♕
6 Éirigh Is Cuir Ort Do Chuid Éadaigh (4:12) ♕♕
7 Siúil A Rúin (5:50) ♕♕
8 Mo Mháire (2:43) ♕♕
9 dTigeas a Damhsa (1:26) ♕♕
10 Cucanandy/The Jug of Brown Ale (3:13) ♕♕
REVIEW DATE - Jan 20th, 2020

Clannad at #777? Precursors to Enya? - the new age artist whose only track you probably know is the remix version of Only Time that was played non-stop on radio post 9/11, to annoying effect. Well, this album sounds nothing like that. Though you may feel suckered after seeing Satan air-guitar (with his trident) on my home page, I feel this album is the ideal candidate to start the countdown. I wanted to begin with a beautiful delicate album and end with a beautiful powerful album. This album takes influences from folk rock, pop and progressive rock, though sounding entirely different to those genres. This is among the first albums to explore the heavenly beauty of Celtic music (flute, mandolin, and harp are used to ethereal effect). You may consider this as early new-age but it still maintains its roots without degenerating to radio-friendly schmaltz. I should feel guilty for starting the countdown on such a tender note, and I do. But do I and should I care?

E*MO*TION (2015)
1 Run Away With Me (4:11) ♕♕♕♕♕
2 Emotion (3:17) ♕♕
3 I Really Like You (3:24)♕♕♕♕♕
4 Gimmie Love (3:22) ♕♕♕♕♕
5 All That (4:28) ♕♕
6 Boy Problems (3:42)
7 Making The Most Of The Night (3:58) ♕♕♕♕♕
8 Your Type (3:19) ♕♕♕♕♕
9 Let's Get Lost (3:13) ♕♕
10 LA Hallucinations (3:04) ♕♕♕♕♕
11 Warm Blood (4:13) ♕♕♕♕♕
12 When I Needed You (3:41) ♕♕
REVIEW DATE - Mar 13th, 2020

If you were thinking I will quickly restore parity (after starting with those softies - Clannad), with some heavy-hitting hard rock or heavy metal to prove I haven't lost my marbles yet, you are in for a rude shock. This is teenage girl pop... and that too recorded in 2015. Blasphemy! There goes my credibility with classic rock fans. Never mind the singer was in her thirties, she sounds like she has just hit puberty. That sounds bad, but it simply isn't. The production on this is excellent and Carly hooked with some big-shot producers and writers to make a completely retro-sounding album with elements of late 70s disco and funk, 80s and 90s synthpop and even some late 70's-mid 80's horror synth. The material is all about love, betrayal, losing control and all that blah teenage issues. But it is so danceable, memorable and arranged impeccably, that you can ignore the juvenile lyrics and run away with Carly to the clouds and dance silly donning a beret and rocking that white fluffy shirt and shiny bell-bottom pants. You have to credit the nu-disco movement of the 2000's for providing influence to this album. Funny fact: I was feeling way too cool for having discovered a teenage album that Neanderthals like you and me would fret; thus, superior to the other disconnected and out-of-touch rock zombies in their 40s. All that came crashing down when I read that one line in Wikipedia "Emotion reinvigorated Jepsen's career as an "indie darling" for older audiences, garnering her a cult following"; It felt like someone threw cold freezing water on my proudly risen (dick) head; proving - I will forever be a pathetic unhip old loser.

1 Jisas Yu Holem Hand Blong Mi (1:21)
2 Soon My Lord (1:16)
3 God Yu Tekkem Laef Blong Mi (2:17)
4 Early Morning At Tabalia (0:29)
5 Procession Chant 1 (1:27)
6 Procession Chant 2 (0:55)
7 Holly (1:40)
8 Procession Chant 3 (1:03)
9 We Love To Sing (3:39)
10 Mi Go Longway (2:51)
11 Jisas, Masta Mi Save (2:57)
12 Procession Chant 4 (0:36)
13 Together Be (2:26)
14 Sunday Service Hymn (1:43)
15 Halleluia!, Sing To Jesus (1:30)
16 Jesus, You Are Here (2:15)
17 Bybye (2:23)
18 We Are One Big Happy Family (2:29)
19 Traditional Lullaby (2:16)
20 Cho Cho Vancho (1:24)
21 Remember (0:54)
22 Jisas Yu Holem Hand Blong Mi (1:53)
23 Pray For Us (2:43)
24 God All Mighty (2:09)
25 Procession Chorus (3:16)
26 Kyrie (3:02)
REVIEW DATE - Mar 14th, 2020

How much should I bet that you don't recognize the flag above? There are no musical instruments on this album - another curveball, huh? This is one of the best choral albums I have ever heard. This music was recorded for the movie The Thin Red Line which I haven't seen yet. The movie is apparently one of the greatest war movies ever made. This album makes me wanna watch the movie soon. The official soundtrack featured instruments and was composed by famed German film score composer Hans Zimmer who has also composed for movies like Rain Man, The Lion King, Gladiator, Interstellar etc. This album has nothing to do with him though. The official soundtrack of the movie featured his compositions alone, except for track 3 from this album. These chants were performed by two choir groups from the Solomon Islands (a small sovereign country in Oceania not far away from Australia). There isn't much detail available online except that The Melanesian Brotherhood performs most of the songs with only 9 of the 26 songs credited to the The Choir Of All Saints. Most of the songs are dominated by female vocals but male bass vocals are present in every song and are equally as endearing. I could have put this album higher up in the list but you need to be in a certain mood to listen to this album in its entirety. It's an excellent headphone album and I would advise you to listen to this in the dark with eyes closed!

1 La Venada (1:48) ♕♕♕♕
2 Boquita De Cereza (2:37) ♕♕♕♕♕
3 El Pájaro Madrugador (2:43)♕♕♕♕♕
4 El Canto del Agua (3:38) ♕♕♕♕♕
5 Ananay (2:52) ♕♕♕♕♕
6 El Quebrachal (3:43)
7 Aires Del Altiplano (3:53)
8 Malkischay (2:30)♕♕♕♕♕
9 La Mariposa (2:07) ♕♕
10 Nieves Eternas (1:58) ♕♕
11 Nuca Llama (1:53) ♕♕♕♕
12 La Pastora (3:12) ♕♕♕♕♕
REVIEW DATE - Mar 18th, 2020

If you have heard what you think as African music and came here thinking you would hear African polyrhythmic djembe percussions and funky guitars, primarily meant for dancing, you thought wrong and you are in for a surprise. Madagascar, though in close proximity to the continent of Africa is actually an Austronesian (I bet most of you don't know such a region exists!) island nation and sounds closer to the stuff you would heard out of Hawaii, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Tonga, Fiji, Tahiti (French Polynesia) etc. than Central or Southern Africa. There are definite African influences though making this music sounding like a fusion of African and Austronesia. Also, this band is not a folk band or a virtuoso classical band focused on one lead instrument either... they are an eclectic pop band who play a variety of instruments. In fact, their national instrument valiha (though one of the main instruments, here) is just one of many instruments. This album I feels resembles Led Zeppelin III more than anything with its focus on folk, blues and some rocking - though it is not as hard or heavy, it has the groove of Led Zeppelin II but the heart of Led Zeppelin III. This album also has the island feel which Led Zeppelin never explored (Jimmy Page or John Paul Jones never played ukulele or valiha in their Led Zeppelin recordings. It would have been interesting to hear Zeppelin at their prime try that... what if they were to vacation in Madagascar in the early 70s? If they could make it to India, they could definitely make it Madagascar!). Speaking of which, why am I making this about Led Zeppelin?

JATARI (1973)
1 Run Away With Me (4:11) ♕♕♕♕♕
2 Emotion (3:17) ♕♕
3 I Really Like You (3:24)♕♕♕♕♕
4 Gimmie Love (3:22) ♕♕♕♕♕
5 All That (4:28) ♕♕
6 Boy Problems (3:42)
7 Making The Most Of The Night (3:58) ♕♕♕♕♕
8 Your Type (3:19) ♕♕♕♕♕
9 Let's Get Lost (3:13) ♕♕
10 LA Hallucinations (3:04) ♕♕♕♕♕
11 Warm Blood (4:13) ♕♕♕♕♕
12 When I Needed You (3:41) ♕♕
REVIEW DATE - Mar 20th, 2020

Yep, you guessed it wrong... dumbarse... it's not the flag of Colombia up there, its Ecuador's... as if you were confident in any way! It would have been still a major achievement for an ignoramus fool like you to guess Colombia. When one thinks of South America, they are not usually thinking Ecuador, are they? Countries like Brazil (for being the only South American nation to speak Portuguese, bossa nova, samba), Argentina (football, enemies of the English), Chile (for reminding us of hot chilis and that unhealthy chili dish) and Colombia (for the mafia) seem to always grab the limelight. Others like Venezuela (constant beauty pageant winners, stinking at football in a grotesque and embarrassing fashion) and Peru (Machu Pichu) get recollected once in a while. And if you know any football at all, you would know of Uruguay. The three others - Paraguay, Bolivia and especially Ecuador seem to get the short end of the stick when it comes to remembering this part of the world. This album is not an attempt to make up the numbers and cover Ecuador. That would be shallow and uncouth of me. This album deserves its spot simply because it's a perfect little undertaking from the '70s that captures the spirit of the tranquil and pastoral beauty of the Andes. If you have any idea about Andean folk, you would expect pan flutes and you do get that here, but then, there's more. Also, this is not a so-called "world" project done in a new age fashion; rather, it's an understated (and beautiful) folk album that is mostly made up of traditionals arranged and played in with a modern outlook, while being delightfully virtuosic and earnestly sincere.

VIENTO (2010)
1 Patagonia (19:15)
2 Antartica (16:08)
REVIEW DATE - Mar 30th, 2020

If you have looked at the track listing you might be wondering what or where the heck is Patagonia? No, it is not that major outdoor clothing brand - it's a sparsely occupied southern region shared by Chile and Argentina which spans a million square kilometres and as of today has a population of just under couple million giving it a density of a whopping 1.9 person per square kilometre! The Australian composer and curator Lawrence English recorded this album while he was on an expedition to Antartica. On the way, he was stuck in the Argentine Patagonia due to a wind storm. Instead of being miserable, Lawrence decided to take his recording equipment and make the best of the situation. This will be the first (and probably most) difficult listening album of the countdown for you. Although it would still not pass as easy listening, the second track is the more palpable and the more palatable of the two. You may not consider this music at all - and you will be right! What makes this field recording work is the enthralling authenticity of the effort; the sounds on the album are as bone-chilling as the conditions under which they were recorded. To enjoy this album, you have to experience it - close your eyes in a dark room and transport yourself to sterile frozen lands ravaged by blizzards at -40 Fahrenheit/Celsius (yes at -40 they are equal. Look it up!) knowing that the wind chill will probably kill you if you don't have appropriate clothing - yet the hauntingly beautiful polar landscape incites you to risk it anyway. Get a good pair of headphones for this - my Sennheiser HD 600 does an adequate job.

SÂZENDA (2005)
1 Raga Khamaj: Peshnawazi (2:03) ♕♕
2 Yakdjânwâzi en dix temps (12:50) ♕♕♕♕
3 Rawân en 16 temps (14:28) ♕♕♕♕
4 Solo de Tabla (10:53) ♕♕
5 Yabouli Bhairavi (12:50)♕♕♕♕
6 Gol-afshân (3:47) ♕♕♕♕
7 Zar-afshan (3:44) ♕♕
8 Delkash (3:24) ♕♕
9 Solo de zerbaghali (5:55) ♕♕
REVIEW DATE - Apr 1st, 2020

I should be obliged to play a prank or crack a joke on April 1st, but with coronavirus in full swing and 47k of my brothers and sisters dead as of now, I am not in a jovial mood as such. If my fellow Americans who are reading this have been interested in politics of any time, they might recognize the flag up there... although I wouldn't bet my life on it. Americans are generally ignorant of the countries they like to bomb... haha. Politics mean nothing to me as most of it is religion based and I am a devout Atheist (though born Hindu). I consider myself a world citizen and I don't think highly of national pride - I am pretty much like George Carlin when it comes to patriotism. Well if you still haven't figured it out, that flag is the Afghanistani flag. And the fact that USA and Afghanistan are a perpetual war shouldn't cloud your judgement of music coming out of that region. Music knows no religion, after all. When I began exploring music from all parts of the world, little did I know that Afghan classical has close ties with Indian classical music. This is however not a slow-burning raga Ravi Shankar like. Nor does it feature any sitar at all. The lead instruments are Afghani rubab and tabla. The tabla makes it sound Indian-like but this music is so rhythmic and Middle-Eastern melody based that only an ignorant nincompoop will consider this Indian classical or raga music. The album being recorded in 2005 has crystal clear sound and the dynamics between musicians is so well-captured that the production on this sounds like you would find on a top-notch ECM jazz album. Even if you cannot get this music, you got to hear this for the excellent production.

1 Hells Bells - AC/DC (5:12)
2 Raining Blood - Slayer (4:14)
3 Love With Tears Us Apart - Joy Division (3:18)
4 We're Not Gonna Take It - Twisted Sister (3:38)
5 Kill The Poor - Dead Kennedys (3:02)
6 Sweet Child O Mine - Guns 'n Roses (5:55)
7 Tom Sawyer - Rush (4:33)
8 Owner Of A Lonely Heart - Yes (4:27)
9 Let It Go - Def Leppard (4:43)
10 Sanctuary - Iron Maiden (3:12)
11 Jesus Christ Pose - Soundgarden (5:50)
12 Give It Away - Red Hot Chilli Peppers (4:43)
13 Rooster - Alice In Chains (6:15)
14 Epic - Faith No More (4:53)
15 Silver Rocket - Sonic Youth (3:47)
16 Still Of The Night - Whitesnake (6:41)
17 Blackout - Scorpions (3:49)
18 Hangar 18 - Megadeth (5:14)
19 Black No. 1 - Type O Negative (11:15)
20 Ace Of Spades - Motorhead (2:48)
21 Debaser - Pixies (2:52)
22 Once In A Lifetime- Talking Heads (4:19)
23 Orion - Metallica (8:27)
REVIEW DATE - Apr 20th, 2020

This is not a real album; it would have been one heck of an album, though. If you were too smart, you would have guessed this to be a soundtrack to some Beavis and Butt-Head movie or episode... I am sorry you got suckered... by that disgraceful yet brilliant crude paint job on (a real) movie poster. Of the 777 albums, 7 of them are gonna be fake. Why you ask? Because it is my friggin' countdown. Me decides - what me does with it! I swapped what was supposed to be my album #770 with this one (and hence the review date on the following album is earlier!). This imaginary countdown episode was aired sometime in mid-1993 (the first season), just as the show was getting popular. Don't you think those two knuckleheaded headbangers would have done this album in a heartbeat? They might have been born in the '90s but their hearts scream '80s (and so do their collective IQ's). This album covers every year between 1980-1993.

Featuring mostly American and British bands (AC/DC are Australian, Scorpions are German and Rush are Canadian), they are not all metal or hard rock but they do have a certain rocking intensity that makes them gel together on this album. I made it a point that I don't include any outwardly pop or dance songs that would "sugar" the album and confuse Beavis enough to make him go all "Cornholio" over us. So you get some punk-influenced and prog-influenced sub-genres in there as well. Though brimming with testesterone, this is not all sausage - three of the songs feature female bassists - don't know which are those? Go educate yourself! It's not all 80s artists in there - there are some 70's leftovers in the form of Yes, Rush, AC/DC, Scorpions (and Motorhead if you want to get really anal - this album would have bee empty without the God... remember the movie - Airheads?). And in poetic justice, the two dimwit losers start their countdown with AC/DC and end with Metallica - the two bands that are permanently emblazoned on their hairless chests.

STAND UP (1969)
1 A New Day Yesterday (4:10) ♕♕♕♕
2 Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square (2:12) ♕♕♕♕
3 Bourée (3:47) ♕♕♕♕
4 Back To The Family (3:53) ♕♕
5 Look Into The Sun (4:23)♕♕
6 Nothing Is Easy (4:26) ♕♕♕♕
7 Fat Man (2:52) ♕♕♕♕
8 We Used To Know (4:03) ♕♕
9 Reasons For Waiting (4:07)♕♕
10 For A Thousand Mothers (4:21)♕♕
REVIEW DATE - Apr 3rd, 2020

If you have been paying attention to my reviews you would have noticed that I have called Ian Anderson (the lead singer, songwriter, flautist, acoustic guitarist and leader of this band) a tool. Yet, his band and album make the list. That’s how I roll - spiteful comments follow ardent praise. True that, Anderson got too clever for his own good when his band hobbled into progressive rock in the '70s. This isn’t prog rock, though. If this is prog rock this has to be the least pretentious, pompous and plethoric (three "P" adjectives which rock critics often use in various ways to disparage the whole prog rock movement) progressive rock albums of all time. On the other hand, if this is pure rock, this is indeed the most pretentious, pompous and plethoric rock albums of all time. This might be one of the very few albums which "pure rock" fans and critics disdain as "too confusing to be rock" and which "prog rock" fans disown as "way too simple to be prog". This respective hate and love for complexity is the divide between rock fans and prog fans. If you have no idea what is this "prog rock thingy" please visit progarchives.com to get better idea from the prog nerds there - I am poor with definitions. I consider myself a (highly selective) prog fan because this genre being overly-ambitious is most often so bad that is good and other times just bad; thus making it an interesting exploration.

Being the huge pathetic loser that I am, I wanted my first real rock album on the countdown to be a pretentious (this is pretension palace after all) prog rock album (that rock critics would absolutely hate... thus earning me some much-needed cool points). However, I miserably failed to find a single prog album that could fit this slot. So, I settled for a pretentious rock album instead... what a disgrace! Don't let the word "pretention" fool you - this album is extremely charming if you embrace versatility. What kind of music is this? Were they trying to play blues rock? folk rock? jazz rock? classical rock? How about all... most times such ambition falls flat on its face, but here it succeeds because the focus is not on showing off but tasteful songwriting. This is Ian Anderson's strongest work and features his strongest rhythm section. God knows how and why he managed to lose his amazingly talented bass guitarist and exceptional feel-oriented drummer in the 70s With this rhythm section future big sellers Aqualung and Thick As A Brick would have live up to their hype! To love this album, you have to get past Ian Anderson's hobo voice. It's very much bearable here, though. And he doesn't even abuse that favorite flute of him. Interesting fact: this sophomore album has a new guitarist - some comedian called Lancelot Barre who probably absconded The Monty Python Flying Circus at some point in his life. That slot could have easily gone to one great Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, had he not fled on his horse, disguised in a black cape in the middle of night, while begging Satan for mercy, after meeting these weirdos.

1 Shootin' Creek (3:24)
2 Baltimore Fire (3:12)
3 Leaving Home (3:09)
4 There'll Come A Time (3:29)
5 White House Blues (3:29)
6 The Highwayman (3:18)
7 Hungry Hash House (3:23)
8 The Letter That Never Came (2:49)
9 Take A Drink On Me (3:15)
10 Husband And Wife Were Angry One Night (2:51)
11 Ramblin' Blues (3:06)
12 Took My Gal A-Walkin' (2:51)
13 Old And Only In The Way (3:28)
14 Don't Let Your Deal Go Down Blues (2:53)
15 Bill Mason (3:00)
16 Sweet Sixteen (2:54)
17 Write A Letter To My Mother (3:01)
18 If The River Were Whiskey (3:09)
19 Mother's Last Farewell Kiss (3:04)
20 Milwaukee Blues (3:17)
21 Where The Whippoowill Is Whispering Good-Night (3:09)
22 The Girl I Left In Sunny Tennessee (3:20)
23 It's Movin' Day (3:27)
24 I'm The Man That Rode The Mule 'Round The World (3:03)
25 Monkey On A String (3:07)
26 Can I Sleep In Your Barn Tonight, Mister (3:12)
27 Sunset March (2:39)
28 Good-Bye Sweet Liza Jane (3:04)
29 Good-Bye Booze (3:15)
30 You Ain't Talking To Me (2:57)
31 If I Lose, I Don't Care (3:07)
32 Budded Rose (3:03)
33 I Once Loved A Sailor (3:06)
34 My Wife Went Away And Left Me (2:55)
35 Just Keep Waiting Till The Good Time Comes (3:26)
36 Coon From Tennessee (3:11)
37 Southern Medley (3:05)
38 Sweet Sunny South (2:54)
39 He Rambled (3:01)
REVIEW DATE - Apr 26th, 2020

How often has an injury to the hand in early years of one's life resulted in the guitarist discovering a way of playing the stringed instrument and discovering and pioneering a signature style that influenced generations of musicians? Think... Django Reinhardt (fire), Tony Iommi (factory accident), Jerry Garcia (wood splitting accident). Well you can add Charlie Poole to that list... granted he played the banjo and died about 2 decades before the rock n' roll era.... still he developed a novel finger-picking style of banjo playing courtesy a permanent arch in his right hand caused by him stupidly losing his thumb to a bet that he could catch baseball without a glove. This kind of music is called old-time - a term invented to basically describe the oldest form of American music apart from Native American music. Sound-wise, old-time is a precursor to country and to my novice ears sounds a little more upbeat and folskier compared to the slower country and the more virtuosic bluegrass. It also uses the downstroke clawhammer style of banjo playing unlike country and bluegrass.

You would think early music would sound pretty muddy, crackling and lo-fi, but this album is an exception. The album collects most of music recorded by Mr. Poole (recorded between 1925-30). Charlie died in on May 21st 1931 (my dad's birthday... yes, my dad was born just like me, my son, brother-in-law and sister-in-law in May... and also died in May) at a tender age of 39... a sad and a great loss. Most of the songs on the albums are covers - Charlie hardly wrote his own songs - but the songs have a modern "revivalist" take (old-time was already old back then!) and are expertly arranged with ample backup from acoustic guitar and fiddle. I am considering the songs which are recorded by his band North Carolina Ramblers for this review - ignoring the stuff with other musicians. This compilation was released in 2005 and nominated for three academy records. Of the whopping 39 songs here, the highlights are the memorable and poetically melodic (If The River Was Whiskey, Sweet Sunny South), bouncy (Shooting Creek, White House Blues, Take A Drink On Me), strangely rocking (Don't Let You Deal Go Down), virtuosic (Hungry Hash House), slow-bluesy (Baltimore Fire), fast-bluesgrassy (I'm The Man With Who Rode the Mule) and country-esque (Leaving Home). That was incredibly lame and shallow of me to neatly categorize the best songs on the album... but I am not gonna get into a song-song review of such a large compilation. And there would be no addendum either, for compilations, as a rule! I would have rated this album higher up on the list if not for it being so massive.

1 Symphony No. 14 (11:20)
2 Symphony No. 8 (11:41)
3 Symphony No. 2 (9:33)
4 Symphony No. 12 (11:23)
5 Symphony No. 17 (11:49)
6 Symphony No. 13 (12:05)
REVIEW DATE - May 31st, 2020

Well, this is my first (Western) classical album in the countdown, and I am a street bum when it comes to classical music - the other genres that I love like rock, electronic and folk music are closer to my base than classical ever was. I enjoy classical very much in spite of not having the slightest comprehension or the knowledge of its high art, complexity, nuance and sophistication. My favorite eras are Baroque and Classical. I love the other periods too - the only era I haven't been able to sink my teeth into is Modern. For some reason, in spite of its great diversity, Modern classical has not been palatable to my taste buds. Maybe I am just an old-fashioned 1700s-era kook with a narrow mind born in the wrong century?

The composer of this album - William Herschel, though not very well-known as a composer, was actually, one of the greatest astronomers of all time. He not only constructed the renowned Herschel telescopes, but also discovered the highly controversial, the full-of-shit planet - Uranus. He also discovered infrared radiation, determined the rotation period of Mars, discovered Titania and Oberon (two moons of Uranus alluded to, in the Pink Floyd classic Astronomy Domine) and the enigmatic Enceladus and that worthless piece of shit - Mimus (two moons of Saturn). And he did all of this, after having already composed 24 symphonies! What a genius, this guy was! I wonder if there were any other great astronomer-composers in history. He had someone in his own family - his younger sister (Caroline) who gave him ample company in his dual pursuits. She discovered comets and has one even named after her, and also sang in oratorios (Handel's Messiah being one of them) that William conducted. She was not a composer though! So, the search for the holy grail of astronomer-composer continues... Regardless, isn't it awe-inspiring to see musician-astronomer siblings? Genius runs in the blood they say, and they are all bloodsuckers... so they know!

I don't remember how I ran into Herschel's music, but I am kind of proud to have discovered him - and you would be too when you listen to this album {Don't get a big head just get a-head}. Six of his symphonies are presented here by the London Mozart Players with Swiss conductor Matthias Bamert in tow - in a bright, vibrant and elegant fashion. They are delectable, joyful and dreamy - and have this remarkable ability to transport you back to the stately and serene beauty of the 1760s (William composed 24 symphonies at a whirlwind speed between 1760-64 - someone told him music wasn't his full-time role!).  I recommend listening to this on vinyl (if available) while sitting in a dark room lying down on a comfy couch with some fine red-wine in hand. This will sound magical and ...English! Though Herschel was German, he had settled in London since the age of 19, and is for all his intents and purposes, an Englishman. These symphonies have a Handel-esque feel to them (who coincidentally was another German composer who was quintessentially English). Never mind the Nazis, in a moment of rare solidarity, ignoring all the bitterness between the two nations, Herschel and Handel brought the Brit and them German brothers together. I wish these two had been born a tad earlier - we could have easily avoided those two pesky, grotesque and rather long-winded world wars!!!

1 Alir Pukai (4:05)
2 Watikai Lau Nuk Pau Atalaigu (3:27)
3 Tarurvur (7:09)
4 Rabaul Taun (11:23)
5 Beautiful Rabaul (5:15)
6 Uma Lari (4:29)
7 Tomaimo (3:53)
8 Sori Boko Na Ra Club (4:04)
9 Youth Development Song (4:29)
10 Town Kavieng (3:41)
11 Lau Ga Ki Tara Papara Ta (3:31)
12 Karanas Leva (6:02)
13 Valvalian (4:27)
14 Gossip (3:59)
15 Tou Ra Vui (3:52)
16 Ram Kuk (3:50)
REVIEW DATE - Jun 6th, 2020

Bonus points for guessing the first flag above. Zero points for guessing the second flag above. Answer quick, before you google! If you are even half-way on the road to Smartania, you would have guessed that this flag belongs to some tropical island country. And that would be - Papua New Guinea, a country that no one seems to know much about at all - in spite of the fact that it is part of the largest island (Papua) after Greenland - that not-so-tropical island. So how does the music sound here? No, it doesn't sound like Hawaiian, Fijian or Tahitian - though it may have infuences from all three. The overall feel of each of the sixteen songs on the album is "outdoorsy" and very much "sunshine folk" but the songs sound very much reflective in nature, with a hint of melancholy. They are all sung in one or more of the 832 Papuan languages with each song having choir-like vocals with plenty of slide guitar (probably played by that lone American - more about him later), some ukulele and acoustic "slack-key guitar" - a style popular in Hawaii.

What has Bob Brozman and America got to do this album? Precious little - though Bob throws in some nice Blues+American Primitivism-inspired bottleneck guitar. Thankfully, he doesn't lend his horrendous voice! Ever since fellow blues and slide guitarist Ry Cooder collaborated with Indian slide guitarist Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (in 1993) and then later with Cuban musicians (in 1997) to great critical acclaim, there was this trend in mid 90s and early 2000s among older blues musicians to do collaborative projects. You could accuse Bob of hopping on the bandwagon but you wouldn't accuse him of lacking sincerity. It seems like Bob (who is also a musicologist) got with the locals (five different local string bands), understood their music and added his little input to it - without trying to make the music his own. In fact, one of the greatest assets of the album might be Bob's complete lack of ego - no modern touches whatsoever! If there is a flaw in the album - it is that most of the songs have the same feeling, even if they do not sound alike. I would recommend listening to this album - not on headphones, but on a surround system... or even better... outdoors near a steady stream of water.

PS: This album might be the answer to that million-dollar question - What would you get if Led Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin... again?) recorded an album full of songs sounding like a curious mix of Hats Off To Roy Harper and Going to California - but not in some "remote" cottage in Wales; but in some REMOTE island 9000 miles away, with local choir and string bands?