The composing team of Laxmikant Shantaram Kudalkar and Pyarelal Ramprasad Sharma, who combined their first names and called themselves Laxmikant Pyarelal, was among the most prolific working in Bollywood for over four decades, from the 1960s until Kudalkar's death in 1998. This compilation presents 28 examples of their songwriting prowess in roughly chronological order, more than two and half hours' worth on two CDs. That's only a tiny fraction of what they wrote for hundreds of movies, but it does provide a representative sampling and, incidentally, a history of Bollywood music over more than a quarter century. (The selections start with "Hansta Hua Noorani Chehra" from the team's first soundtrack, Parasmani , and run through 1991.) On these songs, Laxmikant Pyarelal work consistently with singer Lata Mangeshkar, their early sponsor, who appears on 12 tracks; another frequent vocal collaborator is Mohd. Rafi, heard here 11 times. (These singers and others heard here dubbed the voices of many different onscreen actors and actresses.) The songwriters are always careful to obey the rules in maintaining Indian music as a dominant stylistic flavor, particularly at the top of the scale, with the vocals, and at the bottom, with the distinctive Indian percussion. In between, however, they like to introduce timely and Western elements. This is true early on in "Dil Vil Pyar Vyar" from Shagird (1967), a mixture of traditional Indian music with pop/symphonic accents. "Mast Baharon Ka Main Asshiq" from Farz (1967) boasts an electric guitar and a cha-cha rhythm, and "Nazar Na Lag Jaaye" from Night in London (1967) has a jazzy pop sound, as Rafi occasionally breaks into English, singing, "Oh, my love." "Main Sharabi Nahin" from Khilona (1970) suggests Latin music and the Old West, and "Taaron Mein Sajke" from Jal Bin Manchhli Nritya Bin Bijli (1971) goes so far into that direction as to borrow the basic theme of The Good, the Bad & the Ugly.
The second CD leads off with the only track actually credited to Laxmikant Pyarelal as performers, the instrumental "Soul of Bobby" (from their album of the same name), again leaning toward Latin jazz. It's now the mid-‘70s, and the sound quality has improved markedly, while Laxmikant Pyarelal seem to have discovered James Bond on "Arre Haye Haye Yeh Majboori" from Roti Kapada Aur Makaan (1974). Annotator Bhagwant Sagoo expresses the opinion that Laxmikant Pyarelal went stale in the 1980s, relying on a disco sound, and "Om Shanti Om" from Karz (1980) provides the sole example; it is certainly trendy for its time, and long-since dated. But the team bounces back, with "O Ramji Bada Dukh Dina" from Ram Lakhan (1989) showing them at their most traditionally Indian. Not that the set is through with demonstrating their eclecticism; the final track, "Jumma Chumma De De" from Hum (1991), is so Caribbean in style that the listener expects Buster Poindexter to pop up singing, "Hot, hot, hot!" at any second. Clearly, versatility was the key to this incredibly busy and successful duo of composers, for whom this compilation serves as the tip of the iceberg.