Best of Asha Bosle: The Golden Voice of Bollywood

Asha Bhosle

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Best of Asha Bosle: The Golden Voice of Bollywood Review

by Richie Unterberger

Bhosle is estimated to have recorded anywhere between 5,000 and 20,000 songs in her career as one of India's leading soundtrack singers. So it's hard to judge whether a disc containing a mere 14 of those is either representative of her work or a sampling of her very best tracks. Assuming that it does come anywhere near those goals, it's a good introduction to, or survey of, the output of the woman who is probably India's most popular "playback" singer. There's little documentation as to the precise years most of the cuts were done, other than that they are mainly from the 1960s and 1970s. The material is so diverse -- which, incidentally, is wholly consistent with the all-over-the-map blend of styles you'll hear in Indian soundtracks -- that the main attraction is not so much Bhosle's voice as the actual songs and arrangements. Bhosle's high vocals are flexible and versatile, certainly, but for Western ears, what really stand out are the invigorating oddball song structures, full of right turns and interjections of all sorts of instruments, sailing through all manner of Indian and Western popular music styles. Surf and spy movie guitars give way to grand screeching violins; stiff harem beats are decorated by tablas and piercing organ; psychedelic funk wah-wahs give some of the passages real guts. The older and scratchier cuts come off better than the slicker and, one would guess, more modern ones. Never is it more compelling than on "Lekar Ham Diwana Dil," a duet with male singer Kishore Kumar. That song's a wild ride through six minutes of thriller chase motifs, spidery reverbed guitar, urgent vocal tradeoffs between the singers, and twists and turns of melody and rhythm that would have been hell to read off charts.

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