Russill Paul has done more to popularize classical Indian music than anyone since Ravi Shankar. He arranges traditional ragas for both classic and modern instruments (and his own hypnotic vocals), preserving the overall sound of the South Indian style, with just a little sweetening for Western ears. Carnatic violin and tanpuras mingle with synthesizers and pedal steel guitar, and the melodies tend to avoid microtonalities that might jar. But the purpose of Paul's recordings is not art for art's sake--this is the sound of healing. Each buoyant track on this double CD features a classic healing mantra, from the Maha Mantra ("Hare Krishnaà") to the Tibetan Buddhist "Om Mane Padme Hoom."
The first disc, A.M. YOGA CHANTS, is the more conventional of the two, featuring lilting morning ragas to help jump-start the spirit after a night's rest. P.M. YOGA CHANTS draws more on Western forms and, not surprisingly, has a slower, duskier feel. Both discs invite active engagement: the mantras are so appealingly proffered that it's hard not to chant along. The music is also a perfect compliment to yoga asana practice, or as a focal point for meditation or deep relaxation.