Recently rediscovering 10,000 Maniacs and Natalie Merchant

I was delighted to recently find:

Verdi Cries (1987) – A younger Natalie Merchant with very accessible lyrics, on the piano with a string ensemble. I love combinations like this.

Photograph (1993) – I’m also a huge fan of R.E.M. It turns out Michal Stipe and Natalie Merchant were once lovers.

Motherland (2001) – This reminds me of leaving San Francisco.

Must have been quite the ensemble with a mix of Indian and Russian musicians and instruments. This review from sums it up nicely:

Ravi Shankar, the figurehead of world music, was invited in 1988 to work with Russian musicians on a concert to mark the end of an Indian Festival in the Soviet Union. This recording was made on July seventh of that year, with over 140 musicians present: Shankar’s Indian Ensemble, the Russian Folk Ensemble, the Government Chorus of Ministry of Culture of USSR, and the chamber orchestra of the Moscow Philharmonic. Shankar composed all seven of the pieces here as a melding of the musics of India and Russia. “Prarambh,” the opening piece, is an ethereal sort of sound created by the amalgamation of Indian and Russian instruments both playing ragas.

An Orchestral piece with such great Latin flare from the composer Evencio Castellanos (Venezuela). review:

Santa Cruz de Pacairigua (1954). It’s the only one of Castellanos’ works that’s even slightly well-known, but it is a fully-fledged masterpiece. The best comparison might be An American in Paris: jaunty, broadly merry, with an episodic feel that is in fact deceptive. Like An American in Paris, Santa Cruz is in fact particularly well-developed, with most of the material deriving from the very first solo trumpet line (0:01-0:06); again like the Gershwin work, there are central slow episodes of more romantic character – the strings send up chills at 7:50. In these slower moments, Castellanos begins setting the stage for his grand finale: first, insistent drumming underlines the introduction of a proper hymnal tune, representing the actual church denoted in the title; then a wild, joyous dance erupts. By the end, the unbridled revelry will meet the very bridled hymn tune in a union that’s absolutely thrilling.

Growing up in the 1990s, before the internet, I had several sources for music: my older brother (rock, alternative), my nerdy friends (classical, soundtracks), my parents (folk, classical), and of course MTV and VH1. I didn’t really like rock, alternative, and hip-hop but there was a way to see the lighter side of those genres: MTV Unplugged.

My favorites:

Unplugged wish list:

  • Queen Latifah
  • Enya