As was mentioned by my colleague already sometime ago, Blackstratblues is Warren Mendonsa, former axeman for the pioneers of Indian Alternative Rock, Zero, who remain to this day a staple for most rock bands at small concerts around the country (I say small because rock concerts are always almost small in India). I was at this gig in college a month ago, and the band (a local Hyderabad outfit) played “Not My Kind of Girl” and the crowd went absolutely berserk. Not that many people knew the song or band. They just did for some reason. Zero made that kind of songs.
Coming back to the subject at hand (and apologies for the meandering) Warren Mendonsa went off to New Zealand, and because he couldn’t stay still (which turns out to be a very good thing as you will hear), he came up with this, the first Blackstratblues solo album. It is basically Warren on the lead guitar as the main starring attraction, ably supported by the backing tracks, the album being purely instrumental, and no vocals. The album is up for free download too, so you can jump there directly and get the whole thing, after you are done with this. I might as well spoil the suspense and tell you straightaway that this sounds right.
This was my first exposure to Blackstratblues (i.e. solo Warren) and on hearing the intro (Incense) my first thought was that he had decided to go all Joe Satriani and Steve Vai-ish on us. The timbre of the guitar was what gave me such thoughts. Indeed “Soar the Sky” reminds me strongly of “Always with me, always with you”, what with the soft backing track and slow, strongly melodious, calculated and virtuoso lead tracks on the top of it. Oh, and it is a lovely track too, more importantly. The only way to listen to this music is to have a strong single malt whisky like Glenlivet or Black Label (no, no Jack Daniels, no bourbon) on the rocks in one hand near the sea beach and to be sitting in a rocking chair peacefully. If the sea beach is not possible, we can all at least try for the other two things. If the single malt is not available try Old Monk rum, which is as good, but don’t try more than a quart in a single sitting.
Coming back to the subject (apologies again for the diversion), its not purely a Satch-Vai guitar wank-fest, far from it. The Indian music sensibilities rear their orgasmic head on “Anuva’s Sky”. The aptly titled “Blues for Gary” starts off at a very bluesy pace, and I start enjoying the diversity on an album which, I would like to remind you, consists solely of a guy on a guitar, with a history of pelting hard rock solos on numbers like “PSP 12”. Warren was still not satisfied with the number of genres he had mixed and assimilated within the space of 20 minutes or so, therefore we end up with “A Weekend with you” a soft jazz guitar track, at which point I feel sweet drowsiness taking over me, what with the whisky and breeze and the smell of rain outside my room. Talk about romantic. As soon as I get off my lazy ass and make a girlfriend I am gonna make love to this one. My favorite track is still to come though, not before the album’s pace picks up with “The Cat and The Fiddle” a fun track which I largely ignore, since the mood change is too abrupt and not to my liking. “Bombay Rain” starts off with one the smoothest guitar parts I have ever heard, its trance-y and ambient-y and all sort of other things which I can’t describe, would rather not put in words. Highly recommended. Flawless album.
Recommended Songs: – All of ‘em.