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Music Review: Harry Manx – Live At The Glenn Gould Studio

There used to be a time when live albums were a mixture of so-so sound and versions of a performer's greatest hits peppered with extended guitar solos and the occasional drum solo. Although some groups were far better in concert than they ever sounded in the studio, recording technology was usually insufficient to capture the energy that made their performances so dynamic.

Some live recordings were worth owning as a record of an event, Woodstock for example, or because they featured one of a kind performances with combinations of performers that would never exist elsewhere like The Last Waltz, but on the whole they would quickly become boring. I remember owning any number of live recordings, even illegal bootlegs, at one time. Many of them I never listened to more than once for that reason.

These days, of course, things are a lot different as improvements in recording technology have made it possible for a recording of a life concert to have sound with as good of quality as something a band would do in a studio. So now if a performer I know puts out a live recording, I'll be far more inclined to grab a copy than I would have only ten years ago. Listening to Live At The Glenn Gould Studio, the new live CD by Harry Manx, on Dog My Cat Records, proves that live recordings not only match ones done in the studio for quality, but are finally able to capture the excitement and immediacy of a concert as well.
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The Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto, Canada, where this disc was recorded, is a live audience facility maintained by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for the recording of performances for radio and television. On occasion it's also used for live concerts by performers because of its great acoustics and the potential for making a live recording. It's a room ideally suited to those using a variety of sounds and tonal ranges in their music, as the equipment is sensitive enough, and the technicians are good enough, to not only make crystal clear recordings, but also capture the feel of a live concert.

In other words, it's the perfect atmosphere for creating a live recording of the type of music that Harry Manx performs. For those who aren't familiar with Harry's music the best way to describe it is as a mixture of traditional Delta Blues and classical Indian Ragas. He studied classical Indian music with Vishwa Mohan Bhatt during the twelve years that he lived in India, and on the completion of his studies was presented with one of the special twenty string guitar/sitar hybrids called a mohan veena, that Bhatt had built. So now, when Harry plays the Blues, he uses an instrument that allows him to combine the qualities of the two vastly different musics to create one unique sound.

If one were to think of blues in terms of the earth and Indian music as air, in Harry's music you find the meeting place between the two elements. It doesn't sound like it should work. In fact, it sounds like the worst sort of New Age nonsense when you only read about it, but listening to how he manages to get the two sounds working together you can't help but feel he's created something special. Live At The Glen Gould Studio has some wonderful examples of just how effective this synthesis of his can be.

For this concert he was joined by musicians representative of both sides of his musical make-up, with classical Indian vocalist Samidha Joglekar and tabla player Ravi Naimpally representing the East, and Steve Marriner on harmonica, Kevin Brett on guitar, and George Koller on bass from the West. With Harry as the meeting place for the two styles and the impetus propelling the performance, both sounds are constantly working with, and feeding off, each other.

For the listener the effect is akin to at one moment listening to music that is trance inducing, and then the following moment music that makes you want to get up and dance. While that may sound like you're going to be pulled in opposite directions, Harry and his fellow musicians are able to strike this amazing balance whereby the two work in harmony. Instead of being carried away by the trance like qualities of the Indian music, you are carried into a deeper appreciation of the blues by the way they are blended together.

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site He has been writing for since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.