The Best of A.R. Rahman – Music and Magic From the Composer of Slumdog Millionaire
(3 out of 5)
Well, that didn’t take long. A.R. Rahman probably just landed back in Chennai with his new Oscars in his hand, and already Sony has cobbled together a compilation that’s supposed to give American listeners the opportunity to understand what all the fuss is about. Unfortunately, this compilation – though it contains a number of incredible numbers Rahman composed for some of the dozens of other movies that weren’t Slumdog Millionaire – is far from able to represent the best of a prolific and enormously gifted composer. To be clear, it does have the best ballad Rahman ever crafted (“Tere Bina,” from 2007’s GURU) and a couple of Rahman’s more interesting forays into songcraft (“Warriors in Peace,” which was composed for a Chinese film, and “Rang De Basanti,” a jaunty collaboration with bhangra superstar Daler Mehndi). Furthermore, numbers like “Dheeme Dheeme” and “Barso Re” are excellent examples of Rahman’s ability to weave sweeping sonic gestures into pop numbers. But by leaving out songs from such seminal soundtracks as the ones for TAAL and BOMBAY – on which Rahman singlehandedly upped the standards for Bollywood composition – is very nearly inexcusable, as is the absence of anything from the only soundtrack that Rahman himself considered a complete success, that of 2005’s WATER. Minus those, as well as any of the orchestral pieces Rahman composed for Bose or the Craig Armstrong collaborations done for ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE, this compilation falls well short of truly being a “best of.” That’ll probably require a boxed set.