Sunday, January 18, 2009

Shakti - A Handful Of Beauty(1977)

So you've heard Remember Shakti, and now you want to hear more. Every time I listen to the new
material I think the band should be called Remember Shtickti, because that's what it's about these days.
Their shtick? Slow, meditative beginnings...the introuduction of rhythm...fiery solos...finally, call and
response climaxes. Be that as it may, the guys that do this these days - McLaughlin and his South
Asian comrades - are all top-notch virtuosos, so even that sort of predictable music is wildly entertaining
(unless you really know and dig Hindustani music, which makes Remember Shakti sound like Indo-Enya
or Indo-Yanni). However, when you hear "Handful of Beauty" you will be hearing a work of true genius.
Every cut is amazing. There is an epic, forlorn quality to this music that's very much missing from their
modern stuff. John McLaughlin's playing (my opinion, obviously) reached its absolute peak in this time
period. The guitar he cradles on the cover was like an extension of his brain. He's obviously well-versed
in Indian aesthetics and technique, as he never descends into "exotic-sounding" playing, i.e. dipping into
chromatic and harmonic minor scales, a la Roger McGuinn, Yngwie Malmsteen, or even Jimmy Page.
Some of his most virtuoistic, soulful and sincere playing is to be found on this recording. While perhaps
not on par with that of the greatest Indian musicians in an Indian context, it is still exceptional. Then again,
he's not *trying* to be an Indian musician, but rather, apply his knowledge of Indian music and filtering it
through his years of jazz, rock and fusion experience. No duh, right? Anyway, this is a true gem of an album.
It surpasses their debut and subsequent album as well. As wicked as songs like "Joy" and "What Need
Have I for This? What Need Have I for That? I Am Standing at the Feet of My Lord...All is Bliss...
All is Bliss" are, the muddy production and thin-sounding instruments of the first album seriously detract
from the album's overall quality. The third album ("Natural Elements") is good, but the songs are shorter
and some are a little hokey too. They never quite reach the heights they seek, though one song on
"Natural..." does feature one of McLaughlin's coolest-ever funky strumming riffs, one that cleverly uses
both his normal six strings and the eleven drone strings. "Handful of Beauty" reaches into the stratosphere
and stays put for the duration. The quiet longing and classic McLaughlin harmonies in the last piece, a
violin/guitar duet, are an amazing finale. Did I mention violinist L Shankar? He's monstrous on this album.
So are Zakir Hussain and Vikku Vinyakaram, but they're not the focal points for this album, though it would
be incomplete without them.


  1. Shakti - A Handful Of Beauty - 1. La Danse Du Bonheur

  2. Shakti - A Handful Of Beauty - 2. Lady L

  3. Shakti - A Handful Of Beauty - 3. India

  4. Shakti - A Handful Of Beauty - 4. Kriti

  5. Shakti - A Handful Of Beauty - 5. Isis

  6. Shakti - A Handful Of Beauty - 6. Two Sisters

Quali: 320 kBit/s
Source: Vinyl
Size: 108 Mb



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