Big Jim Sullivan is a name most of us are probably not acquainted with, but don't be shocked to learn that you have no doubt heard his guitar playing - not just once, but perhaps thousands of times. That's because he is one of the most sought after session guitarist in the UK, and has played on over 1,000 chart entries - acts as diverse as The Kinks, Herman's Hermits, Lulu, Cat Stevens, and Olivia Newton-John. Big Jim Sullivan was also pretty much the only session musician in the UK, in the 60s who could play sitar, something he took very seriously and did not treat as a gimmick. This cd is the first time ever that Big Jim's album Sitar Beat has been put out on cd, and it's a lovely treat. It's a great sitar recording, as well as a time capsule of 1960s easy instrumental music.
This cd has Big Jim Sullivan's album Sitar Beat from 1968, as well as a wealth of De Wolfe Library music recordings which enhance this collection tremendously. Big Jim takes songs of the day and does them up instrumental sitar style. Songs like The Beatles' She's Leaving Home (a vastly different arrangement from the original) and Within Without You (of course), Donovan's Sunshine Superman and Translove Airways (Fat Angel), Procol Harum's A Whiter Shade of Pale, and the Jeff Beck/Yardbirds tune Tallyman. Some of these covers work and some of them don't. The Donovan covers are my personal favorites - Translove Airways (Fat Angel) has some nice fuzzed out bass and unearthly strings. However, the Procol Harum and sadly the Beatles' Within You Without You don't work quite as well and are more by the numbers. I've heard better versions of the Beatles' Within You Without You. Big Jim also has a bunch of songs he composed which were especially written to spotlight the sitar and work really well. My favorites include LTTS, which has a real dreamy sound, The Koan which is quite rhythmic with delicate flute melodies. The Sitar and The Rose has some looping sitars and flute. All in all an album to relax and let the melting sounds wash over you.
The bonus cuts are almost better than a lot of the album tracks and are a great addition to the entire set. The bonus cuts are taken from two De Wolfe music Library releases called The Wild Ones and Sounds Of India and really dig deeper into a great sitar driven sound in songs like Flower Power and Indian Dance No. 2. More pop oriented tracks like Pageing Sullivan (which of course, has Jimmy Page on guitar), Pop Spot, Viva La Tamla Motown, and The Wild One are great incidental music pieces with some relaxed but killer riffs and rhythms.
Nobody will make the claim that this is a definitive sitar album, but no one can contest that it's a great sitar pop recording by a great musician. In fact, it rises above the usually 60s fare, and i'm sure many rock bands would kill to be this great. I'm glad to see this album and it's extra tracks finally get a cd reissue. I hope to someday get my hands on the RPM Mood Mosaic cds, they too look like amazing reissues.
Note: Here's a great site for the sitar music collector.