Four great albums that are victims of clickbait correctness

Clickbait correctness - if ain't clickable, don't hype it on social media - means some great albums are not receiving the attention they deserve. My recent rewarding listening has included the new Alice Coltrane release Kirtan: Turiya Sings. Kirtans are sacred Vedic chants, and Turiya Sings was originally released exclusively on cassette in 1982 for the students of Alice Coltrane's ashram at the The Vedantic Center, northwest of Los Angeles. For this cassette release synthesizers, strings, and sound effects were added to Alice Coltrane’s voice and organ. Although this mix was never commercially released, it achieved cult status as a bootleg recording. The reason for the absence of a commercial release remains unclear, but the most plausible explanation is that the complete master tapes were not retained, making quality remastering impossible. But in 2004 Ravi Coltrane, who is Alice’s son by John Coltrane and producer of this new release, discovered tapes of just Alice’s voice and her Wurlitzer organ. 

These tapes have been remastered on this new release by Universal Music's Impulse label. In his thoughtful sleeve note Ravi Coltrane explains that "On this album, your ear will be turned toward the sound of the blues, to gospel, to the Black American church, often combined with the Carnatic singing style of southern India. You will hear beautiful harmonies influenced by Alice’s Detroit/Motown roots, her bebop roots, John Coltrane’s impact, and her absorption of European classical music, particularly that of her favorite: Igor Stravinsky".

Pitchfork and other influential media have covered Turiya Sings. But it is a sign of our cultural mono-diversity that Alice Coltrane remains an overlooked figure by classical's self-appointed cultural commentators, despite being an outstanding black woman musician with links to the Western classical tradition. For me Turiya Sings inhabits the same deep listening world as Valentin Silvestrov's Silent Songs; listen via this link.
In 2005 the young Belgian composer Wim Henderickx experienced Jonathan Harvey's music first hand when Jonathan commissioned a work for the music@venture festival at DeSingel, Antwerp. Wim Henderickx continued to be influenced by Jonathan Harvey's music and his 2016 Blossomings (3 Prayers For A Better World) for mixed choir, trumpet (or clarinet) and optional electronics is a tribute to Jonathan. 

To my knowledge Blossomings, which sets texts from the Tibetan Book of the Dead and texts by Hildegard von Bingen and Rumi, has never been recorded. But I was very taken by a disc of works by string orchestra by Wim Henderickx titled Nostalgia. This is the recording debut of the Belgian Boho Strings conducted by David Ramael and the players are captured in outstanding sound by the 2018 recording. Wim Henderickx's music is notable for being uncompromisingly contemporary yet accessible - sample via this link. But clickbait correctness means, quite wrongly, it remains a well-kept secret. Now just imaging the clickbait feeding frenzy that would surround this album if it was conducted by Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla....
Wim Henderickx leads me to Jimi Hendrix, whose Little Wing inspires a track on Iiro Rantala's How Long is Now?, while the album's musical diversity is underlined by another track inspired by the Kyrie from Bach's B Minor Mass. On An Overgrown Path does not live off the patronage of record labels, so I'm not obliged to hype the latest, all too often mediocre, releases. Only one of my four featured albums was released in 2021, and How Long is Now? is actually a 2016 Act Music release. But I bought it recently and it has been in constant rotation ever since. I have written before in praise of Iiro Rantala, and How Long is Now? shows that jazz can be both uplifting and inspiring. So why is jazz so underrated?

Another victim of clickbait correctness is early music. Presumably this is because its proponents have not deviated enough to make it onto the Slipped Disc naughty list. Or perhaps it is because there are not enough unexceptional women composers of early music to disinter. (However, why is the most-definitely exceptional Kassia [c810-865AD] overlooked?) Releases by Cantica Symphonia directed by Giuseppe Maletto always give me great pleasure, no more so than their recent disc of Josquin Desprez's Stabat Mater, Marian motets and instrumental songs. If mono-diversity means you can sit through 68 minutes of Mahler but not 68 minutes of high Renaissance polyphony give this disc a try. Because the intelligent juxtaposition of vocal and instrumental music means this release could reach a wide audience, if only clickbait correctness would give it a chance.


Geoff said…
Thanks for the links, which I am exploring. You may have seen this review of Blossomings from 2019...

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