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Susheela Raman 33 1/3 Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

33 1/3’s beautifully stripped back production is a case of less is more, enabling a...

Rahul Verma 2007

This album is a featured release on BBC's Asian Network

33 1/3 is the fourth album in globetrotting, 2001 Mercury nominated singer/songwriter, Susheela Raman’s repertoire. 33 1/3 was also Raman’s age when she began recording this album in living rooms across Iceland, Italy and England in summer 2006.

It’s a brave record, covering sacrosanct songs by hallowed 20th century artists including Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and Joy Division, but Raman rises to the challenge. Rock classics are imbued with gentle Afro-Asian hues, making many of these timeless songs entirely her own.

The album opener, a cover of Lou Reed’s “I’m Set Free” liberates Raman from the themes of culture and identity that dominate her earlier works. ‘It feels like a new beginning,’ Raman says of her album.

She treats these English-language songs with intimacy and passion, exploring this new repertoire with compelling, mesmerizing ease. 33 1/3 has a sparse, stripped down tone, mostly Raman’s thick, treacly voice and a guitar, with dashes of tabla and African chanting.

"Love Lies" is an ethereal track, Raman showcases a cooler, lighter aspect to her timbre alongside Bjork-esque blues. Can’s “Yoo Doo Right”, though not approaching the coruscating 20-minute attack of the original, sees Irish and African folk collide and over six minutes Raman is transformed into a singing, chanting whirling dervish.

Raman’s cover of Joy Division’s “Heart & Soul” is 33 1/3’s stand-out moment: a tabla provides a restrained D ‘n’ B pulse complementing Raman’s honeyed, sensual tones and it’s hard to imagine that this song didn’t ever originate from the East.

33 1/3’s beautifully stripped back production is a case of less is more, enabling a vocalist with a singular voice to express her full range and passion.

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