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My Favorite Music: Bruce Lee Mani

The Thermal and a Quarter fontman has an affinity for the pioneers of prog and more


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Bruce Lee Mani performing at the Escape Festival. Photo by Kuntal Mukherjee.

Bruce Lee Mani performing at the Escape Festival. Photo by Kuntal Mukherjee.

Bengaluru rock band Thermal And A Quarter’s frontman Bruce Lee Mani is modest enough to carefully place among his favorites, every track by his band. He claims, “So there, I love ‘em all.” Here’s what else he loves.

“And When I Die” Blood, Sweat & Tears, 1969

Originally a Laura Nyro tune, but performed by the band that got me into ‘Jazz Rock’ and horns. David Clayton-Thomas was also my biggest vocal inspiration (most folks thought it was Eddie Vedder) at the time.

 

“Shine on You Crazy Diamond” Pink Floyd, 1975

It’s 1993, I’m sitting in my room and playing this over and over, lost in the atmosphere, singing every note of the solo, high as a kite and tripping with no chemicals whatsoever.

“Green Tea” John Scofield, 1998

Love this whole album [A Go Go], but this has to be my favorite track. Typical, understated Sco with a beautiful, lyrical solo. We play this with the band sometimes and it’s always a treat.

“Where Do the Children Play” Cat Stevens, 1970

The words of this one will always be relevant, methinks. It’s the song that got me into the Cat’s work. There are other great ones, of course, but this is the Cat for me.

“Gaucho” Steely Dan, 1980

It may have taken a collaboration with [jazz musician] Keith Jarrett to take the customary Dan super-slick snarkiness to the level of ‘Art’, but this has to be their classiest ever. What. A. Track. Still don’t really know what it’s about though. Makes it better, somehow.

“6:00” Dream Theater, 1994

The album [Awake] that redefined Prog Rock for the 1990s and still my favorite from their catalog. Great chops, great songs. Nearly burst blood vessels trying to reach those high notes.

“I Talk to the Wind” King Crimson, 1969

My first love from the whole ‘Art Rock’ 70s thing. The album is super, but this one always stuck.

“Heart of the Sunrise” Yes, 1971

My introduction to this band and still one of my favorite songs from their catalog. I have the LP (it’s seen better days) and still waiting to frame it for the wall.

“Ilaya Nila” Ilayaraja, 1982

This is the song that defined guitar playing in Indian film music! I have vague recollections of a lot of coughing in that movie. Seventies super chic composition, Ilayaraja at his peak, perhaps?

“Juice of Chrysanthemum” Chakra-View, 1995    

The first track by an Indian band that made us [TAAQ] feel so incredibly proud that we were doing this whole music thing and that we could do it.

“Seven Days” Sting, 1993

At his clever-naughty-slick best. The only other album that perhaps surpassed this one [Ten Summoner’s Tale] was Mercury Falling. After that, I lost the plot with Sting.

“Have You Heard” Pat Metheny Group, 1989

Liquid graceful soaring lines, floating groove, ethereal. I heard this first on the live album The Road to You [1993] and it got me addicted to Metheny’s work.

“Sisters” Steve Vai, 1990

I think this was on Passion and Warfare, wasn’t it? Arguably this melding of Hendrix-Montgomery and Vai is one of the best instrumentals ever. Learnt it up with great difficulty in college and took all of ten years to get it right. Phew.

 

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