Fusing American pop with Indian classical music, raja-rock combo Church of Betty was the brainchild of New York-based multi-instrumentalist Chris Rael, whose growing interest in global music traditions prompted him to travel to the Far East in 1988. The field recordings he made in India and Nepal ultimately made their way into his earliest Church of Betty efforts, which also incorporated strong elements of of Himalayan folk after 1989's debut LP West of the East appeared on Rael's own Fang Records imprint, which subsequently launched artists including the Mommyheads, 101 Crustaceans, and Oren Bloedow on its way to emerging as one of the premier, downtown N.Y.C. labels of the period. In 1991 Rael returned to India to study Hindustani classical singing under music scholar Dr. B.V. Patekar and sitar under Ravindra Goswami; returning stateside two years later he re-formed Church of Betty, recruiting bassist Joe Quigley and drummer Jonathan Feinberg for 1993's Kashi, followed the next year by In Search of Spiritual Junkfood. After teaming with members of the rock band Hunk in the trio the Hand, Rael next recorded in collaboration with ghazal singer Najma; their 1996 LP, Forbidden Kiss, offered westernized renditions of songs from Hindi film composer S.D. Burman. He re-formed Church of Betty for 1998's Comedy of Animals. Fruit on the Vine appeared a year later.
by Jason Ankeny