Big Jim Sullivan

Sitar Beat

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Top British session guitarist Jim Sullivan was not a novice to the sitar when he recorded this instrumental album in 1968, having studied it seriously and established himself as the only non-Indian session musician who could play the instrument on U.K. recordings. The record still sounds like rather cheesy East-meets-West à go-go, though. Covers of then-current rock faves like "A Whiter Shade of Pale," "Sunshine Superman," and the Beatles' "She's Leaving Home" and (of course) "Within You, Without You" share space with three Sullivan originals, with John McLaughlin playing some session guitar. The rock covers are basically instrumental rearrangements that save for the sitar fit into the usual 1960s pop/rock background mood music format, though "She's Leaving Home" is changed to fit more Indian rhythms. Sullivan's original compositions (even the one titled "Flower Power") are more Indian in flavor, though nothing to set alongside your Ravi Shankar LPs, with "The Koan" buttressed by a nice jazzy breeze. The 2002 RPM CD reissue adds not only lengthy historical liner notes but also six cuts from music library discs on the De Wolfe label, four from the 1966 LP The Wild One and the other two from 1967's Sounds of India. Though these were only produced as sources of incidental music for TV and movies, actually they're more enjoyable than the Sitar Beat album proper. The quartet of tunes from The Wild One contains some pretty dynamite Swinging London jazz blues organ grooves, particularly "Pageing Sullivan," with Jimmy Page also on guitar; the two numbers from Sounds of India are relatively straightforward Indian sitar arrangements.

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