Ravi Shankar recorded his debut album in London in 1956 during his first European visit as a sitar virtuoso (he'd already toured the world as a dancer), and it's a stone masterpiece of North Indian (or Hindustani) classical music. The first side of the album consisted solely of "Raga Jog," a late-evening raga that's both contemplative and chock-a-block with fiery improvisation. After a solo alap section, containing increasingly complex ideas about this particular raga, the master tabla player Chatur lal, who accompanies Shankar on all three pieces, joins him with the 16-beat Tintala rhythm.
Shankar's sitar work is driving, ceaselessly inventive and full of diverse ornamentations and phrasing tricks that twist and turn the melody into hyperdimensional shapes. He hits notes that all alone might have inspired the careers of countless electric guitarists of the following decade. Shankar is only slightly less dazzling on the two shorter ragas that filled out the album. "Raga Ahir Bhairav" is a morning raga with a mood of introspective promise and a tinge of sadness, while the final track, "Raga Simhendra Madhyaman" is a beautiful melody of South Indian (Carnatic) origin.