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Shankar & Gingger - One in a Million Print E-mail
Tuesday, 09 October 2001
performance 6
sound 8
release 2001

Another finely-crafted surround mix by Gary Lux at 5.1 Entertainment (aka Silverline) here in West LA characterizes this otherwise quite unusual release, One in a Million from Shankar & Gingger. As I’ve noted before, it’s the small companies that are really delivering the goods when it comes to high-quality audio discs, and 5.1/Silverline is one of the leaders. One thing you can be certain of with their releases is that they're going to sound great.
This collaboration between two musicians with prodigious musical talents and lists of credits as long as both arms – plus an outstanding band – is an interesting departure for the label. Intended from the beginning as a 5.1 project, the pair both sing and play double violin. Their backing band includes Steve and Mike Porcaro, late of Toto and Tony Levin on bass. There’s even a cameo appearance from Phil Collins on one track (on backing vocals).

I first came across Shankar in the credits to Peter Gabriel’s album Passion, where he co-wrote one of the tracks and appeared on several others. He has a clear, strong singing voice with appealing Indian affectations, while Gingger, though equally strong, has a much more Western feel. Their instruments blend well into a sophisticated set of arrangements, which combine the feel of the Indian subcontinent with more Western electronic music and other instrumentation.

The disc itself is double-sided, with DVD-A and DVD-V sides. There are MLP and stereo at 24/96, plus Dolby AC-3 surround, with a series of still photographs accompanying each number. In addition, there’s a 20-minute video documentary, biographies, and a rather interesting song commentary by the two musical partners. I have never seen this done before, and it has the same kind of appeal as a movie director’s commentary track on a regular DVD: it gives you added insight into how the creative material was conceived and executed, which (at least to me) is almost always interesting.

The playing is tight, the musicians in good form, the arrangements interesting, the mix up to the normal excellent standard we expect from Gary Lux … so why doesn’t this album do it for me? The simple answer, I’m afraid, is the lyrics. From the commentary, you can hear that a lot of feeling went into the songs, but for some reason most of it never comes out. The lyrics are rather too banal for my taste, beautifully sung though they are. I am afraid that I kept wishing that this was an instrumental album, or at least that an instrumental mix was one of the audio options.

Maybe my expectations are too high – there is a good deal more here, lyrically speaking, than on the average pop album, after all – but I was still left with a feeling of disappointment that among all this beautiful material made by talented participants, no one had anything deeper to say, whatever the intentions behind the songs actually were. Extremely enjoyable on an instrumental level, this album may be enough for many people, but I am afraid it was not quite sufficient for me.

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