One of the curses of being a reviewer is the sheer volume of material that arrives on my doorstep. About a week ago a package turned up, I was up to my eyeballs in deadlines so it was relegated to the ‘pending’ pile.

Actually ‘pile’ does not really do justice, this is a war zone, and a constant source of aggravation for my usually patient wife “Do something with that stuff, if you put any more on the table I won’t be able to see the TV.”

The package reemerged yesterday, and I was in awe and wonder! What a find! In honor of Ravi Shankar’s 90th birthday Dark Horse Records has released a three CD + DVD boxed set of this wonderful musician.

Younger music fans may not have heard the name Ravi Shankar so let me give you a very brief history lesson. Ravi Shankar was a very well known Sitar player in India, but unknown in the West. That changed in the late 60’s. Western bands, particularly those involved in the Prog Rock world started to embrace the music of India, particularly the Sitar.

It was the Beatles that brought most attention to the phenomena, but they were hardly the first.

A long lasting friendship developed between Ravi Shankar and George Harrison and the pair collaborated on many projects. This three CD + DVD boxed set covers twenty years of music. The compositions are all by Ravi Shankar and produced by George Harrison.

In 1973 George Harrison signed Ravi Shankar to his somewhat fledgling recording label Dark Horse Records.

In their first joint venture Ravi Shankar and his ensemble was jointed by a formidable group of western musicians, George Harrison, Ringo Star, Billy Preston, to name but a few.

Shankar And Friends was released in 1974, it was only available in vinyl, and has been out of print for over 30 years. This album has been much sought after by Beatles fans and collectors world wide.

Music Festival From India was released in 1976,, it was recorded in London and was produced by George Harrrison. Again, this is an album that was only available on vinyl and has not been available for over 30 years.

The third CD is of more recent vintage, Chants Of India was released in 1997, partially recorded in Madras, India and London it once more brought together Ravi Shankar’s unique music and George Harrison’s production skills. The US is not usually a hot bed for world music sales, however the album sold over 100,000 copies. These sales levels for an album of this type are unheard of!

To once again have these wonderful albums back in print makes this boxed set well worth the price of admission. I don’t want to sound like the TV infomercial pitch man “But wait, if you order in the next 10 minutes we will include a bonus”, but I cannot help myself!

Actually I may have the ‘bonus’ round the wrong way, maybe the CD’s are the bonus, and the real prize is the DVD. It contains the previously unreleased 1974 concert of Music Festival From India recorded at London’s fabled Royal Albert Hall, complete with an introduction by George Harrison.

Also included in this numbered limited edition set is a 56 page hardcover book. that contains previously unpublished photos from the Harrison and Shankar family albums.

You can order your copy of Ravi Shankar George Harrison Collaborations by using the Amazon link above.

Simon Barrett

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