|An instrument prominently featured on this record is the mohan veena, used in
the whole Western world by only Harry Manx and the late George Harrison. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt developed and named
this hybrid slide guitar, which is a highly modified archtop guitar, played lap-style. It has 19 strings: three
melody strings and four three drone strings coming out of the peg heads, and 12 sympathetic strong to tuners mounted
to a piece of wood added to the side of the neck. The melody strings are on what we would consider the treble side
of the neck, and the drone strings are on the bass side. The drone strings are lower in height than the melody
strings to allow for unrestricted playing of the melody strings. The sympathetic strings run underneath the melody
and drone strings to yet another level in the bridge. The instrument has a carved spruced top, mahogany back and
sides, a mahogany neck, and a flat, fretless, rosewood fingerboard. It is under tremendous tension; the total strings
pull to be in excess of 500 pounds, which creates strong tones more intensely abetted by the sympathetic strings
with each note played. It is also a very loud instrument made to cut through with low amplification, like a banjo
or resonator guitar.
Now you're ready for next Thursday's pop quiz on mohan veena, but that doesn't mean you're ready for Harry Manx. I think that preparation takes decades, and the right decades at that. In brief, I think that Harry Manx was born at approximately the same time rock was born and has matured with it, and that his music is for listeners who have done likewise.
The familiar covers from Wise and Otherwise, "Foxy Lady(Jimi Hendrix)," "The Thrill Is Gone(B.B. King)" and "Crazy Love(Van Morrison)" are all from the cusp of our popular music, right between the British Invasion and FM radio rock. His originals come from that same time and place, an environment in which musicians suddenly found themselves with more than three minutes per song in which to communicate with large audiences and responded with a commitment to more sophisticated messages. Without Neil Young's periodic reliance on electric amplification, Manx shares his fascination for strong visual images and ability to spin dramatic stories from them. Among the seven and a half Manx originals on this album are "Tethered Dogs," "Roses Given" and "Coat of Mail," all three rooted as strongly in sight as in sound.
Harmonica, slide guitar and banjo complete Wise and Otherwise instrumentation, all played by Manx. Vocal duties hereon are all his, too. Production values aren't the highest. It sounds as if the microphones were better than their placement in the studio, and another layer of mixing might have gotten rid of that feedback. This album is good in random rotation on a CD changer with vintage Taj Mahal, Van Morrison, Bonnie Raitt and George Harrison. It is in a class with those recordings. I am very, very glad to have it.
Young's periodic reliance on electric amplification, Manx shares his fascination for strong visual images and ability to spin dramatic stories
from them. "