Album of the day: Shankar, "Touch Me There"

Album of the day: Shankar, “Touch Me There”

Touch Me There (Cd Zappa Records CDZAP 50)

There are not many fellow musicians towards whom Frank Zappa expressed admiration or favorable opinions, his merciless sarcasm was equally distributed between rock colleagues and representatives of classical music without distinction; after all, his quality standards were notoriously very high and to pass the gauntlet of his judgment you had to be more than good.

One of the artists that Zappa not only admired but went so far as to produce for his own record company is the violinist Shankar, no stranger to collaborations with rock musicians (he has worked among others with Peter Gabriel, Stewart Copeland, Bill Laswell and Steve Vai), specialized in the use of a particular violin equipped with a double neck: from this singular instrument Shankar draws extraordinary improvisations that manage to combine Indian and Western instrumental techniques at the same time, using a remarkable technique and a sound that is recognizable after a few seconds.

His skill is astonishing, his imagination is no less, and live he is even more effective than on record (unfortunately he does not perform frequently in Italy); Furthermore, Shankar was one of the pioneers among those who tried to merge traditional Indian music with other types of musical languages, although in any case he avoided any attempt at world contamination of a commercial nature.

“Touch Me There”, from 1979, is a strange album that alternates excellent instrumental songs like “Little Stinker”, “Windy Morning” and “Love Gone Away” with almost zany songs like the title track and “Knee-deep in Heaters”, probably born in more relaxed moments compared to the more complex sessions. Zappa does not intervene with his guitar but appears as a vocalist in “Dead Girls of London”, an easy-rock song with typically biting and Zappa-like lyrics.

This album is good if today you feel a changeable or capricious mood given that its continuous stylistic alternations and its
Arrangements bordering on paradox might irritate you if you were in the mood for more serious listening; in any case it is difficult not to be amazed by Shankar’s sorcerous ability and his ability to adapt his language to the most diverse situations while always remaining personal and creative.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.