While it is literally impossible to present the history if India's film music industry -- affectionately named Bollywood by outsiders -- on one CD, the folks over at the Rough Guide have done an admirable job of presenting the Bollywood love song in historical and aesthetic context. This CD compiled by DJ Ritu, with excellent liners by Bally Sagoo, and offers an excellent overview of the genre's early years with performances by legends Lata Mangeshkar, her sister Asha Bhosle, the always wildly dramatic Kishore Kumar, and the king of Bollywood heroes, Mohammed Rafi. In addition to picking tracks from the best films, such as Ardhana, Caravan, Khabie, Khabie, and Kati Patangi, there are newer tracks, as well, from relative newcomers to the scene, like Lucky Ali, Chitra, and Alka Yagnik, giving a rounded view of how both the industry and the love song in its movies have changed. Easily the best track on the set is "Piya To Ab To Aaja," by Ahsa Bhonsle and Rahul Dev Burman, written by R.D Burnam. It's such a killer twangy Fender Western theme, juxtaposed against an Indian soundscape with skittering percussion and a real Morricone feel with a refrain that's repeated after every two lines and sounding like the bad guys are being chased out of the coral. It's awesome as both rock music and film music. But what's here is such a montage, a series of tender moments and kitschy glory, that the collection is literally indispensable for its historical significance and its camp value for those of us who are too stupid to known better. In other words, despite that the fact that what has been produced here to see a movie or push through a particular narrative line with more clarity comes across on this recording as simply beautiful and stunningly so no matter the original intent. Give one listen to the lovely duet between Lata Mangeshjkar and Mukesh on "Kahbi Kahbi Mere Dil Kayal Aata" and you will most likely be moved to tears if you don't have sawdust instead of blood running through your veins. If only the Rough Guide folks had done a box set, but perhaps that's being greedy.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek