TAS Rated 4/5 Music, 4.5/5 Sonics in the August 2008 Issue of The Absolute Sound!
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American composer, musicologist and guitar legend Ry Cooder teams with North Indian musician Vishwa Mohan Bhatt to create an exquisite musical realm, with both musicians playing exceptional slide guitar. Their collaboration evokes musical elements from many cultures and styles. Percussion by Sukhvindar Singh on tabla and Cooder's 14-year-old son Joachim on dumbek. This recording won a Grammy Award.
A Meeting by the River can best be described as a spontaneous outpouring of music, unhindered by convention or form, brought into being by musicians so supremely capable that the music is never labored, the technique of their craft always subservient to the final product. Cooder and Bhatt are genuine masters of the guitar and mohan vina, respectively. The latter, an instrument created by Bhatt himself, is a sort of hybrid between a guitar and a vichitra vina, and is played with a metal slide. This fact is just one of the many things that connect Bhatt's playing to Cooder's, who plays nothing but bottleneck guitar here.
The musical interplay between Cooder and Bhatt is nothing short of astounding, especially so considering that they met for the first time only a half-hour before the recording of this album. The voices of the two instruments blend marvelously, first alternating melodic statements, then doing so together, each dancing around the other, playing cat and mouse, probing, answering, reflecting. They are ably accompanied by a pair of percussionists: tabla player Sukhvinder Singh Namdhari and Cooder's own son, Joachim, on dumbek.
A Meeting by the River is one of those few cross-genre albums in which the listener never feels for a second that there is some kind of fusion going on; one does not hear the component parts so much as the integrated whole. However, one can theoretically separate guitar from vina, America from India, the Mississippi from the Ganges. Once this is done, the resulting music makes more sense than ever before, the combination of two traditions of stringed instruments that use slides to produce sound and value improvisation and voice-like phrasing. As good as this sounds on paper, the actual results are even more impressive. The splendor of the music is aided in its transmission by the fact that, like all Water Lily Acoustics releases, this album is masterfully recorded; each instrument is clear, distinct, and three-dimensional sounding. A Meeting by the River is a must-own, a thing of pure, unadulterated beauty, and the strongest record in Cooder's extensive catalog. - All Music Guide
"...Astonishingly, the four conversational yet adventurous tracks captured on A Meeting by the River were unrehearsed jams between the two masters, who had met only minutes before the session. The lesson is that Cooder and Bhatt not only knew how to play, but how to listen." - Daniel Durchholz, Stereophile, February 2007
"The quintessential 2 mic Blumlein recording, a musical extravaganza on 45rpm it destroys the early '90s CD!" Danny Kaey, Positive-Feedback Online
"...Passionate, mysterious, intricate, earthy, ethereal, moody and mystical, the rich musical improvisations on this recording defy categorization The recording is as astonishing as the music: a harmonically complex, three dimensional, two-microphone purist production that will easily take its place at the top of the sonic heap in your record collection and that's a guarantee this is among the most spacious, convincing three-dimensional recordings you will ever hear An essential record in any 21st century vinyl collection." Music = 11/11; Sound = 11/11 Michael Fremer, Music Angle, www.musicangle.com
"The sound is about as good as it gets, with almost no sense of recording gear between the listener and musicians, who are laid out in a solid horizontal line. The remarkable air and tangible "thereness" will take your breath away." - Wayne Garcia, TAS August 2008
45rpm 180g Vinyl
Ry Cooder, guitar
Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, slide guitar
Sukhvindar Singh, tabla
Joachim Cooder, dumbek
1. A Meeting By The River
1. Ganges Delta Blues
2. Isa Lei