The more I listen to the soundtrack of Subhash Ghai's box office bomb Black & White, the more I'm convinced its a vastly underrated CD. Especially because you can't listen to party dhuns all the time and need a breather like this once in a while. And when you do, you won't find a better collection than what composer Sukhvinder Singh has put together here.
There are two things to note at the outset.
First, B&W is very much a singer's album. It matches the song and its mood very carefully with vocal talent. The music plays second fiddle to the vocals and the singers get to show off their chops - and three of them, including Sukhvinder himself bites into the opportunity with relish.
Second, B&W is largely a mellow album. Its Hindustani lite-FM played over softened percussion. Delicate tablas replace sharp drums, finger snaps proliferate instead of claps - even the big drums sound diffused. Sukhvinder stays true to this theme through the album - relying on the singing instead of musical arrangements to ratchet up the drama and emotion when required.
On Jogi Aaya, Sukhvinder opens - singing at an octave that virtually changes his voice - and sets the stage for one of the most criminally underused talents in Bollywood music today: Sadhna Sargam. (Her Chupke Se from A.R.Rahman's Saathiya remains a personal favorite.) Sadhna delivers an exquisitely calibrated performance, something even Lata would be proud to have on her crowded resume.
You can hear Shreya Ghoshal's growth on Mein Chali, which has a beat that requires Shreya to keep up with some challenging single-breath singing. Unlike Barso Re - Shreya's coming of age and more celebrated song - this is a stronger performance with excellent modulation at most scales. And Shreya now sounds less shrill at the higher notes than when she started.
Sukhvinder uses Jagjit Singh on Yeh Hindustan Hai - a straightforward melody which really benefits from the natural timber and world-weariness in Jagjit's voice. Its contrasted with a more hopeful version rendered later by Udit Narayan.
Sukhvinder does the bulk of the singing on this CD, doing duty on no less than four of the seven original tracks here. But his one outstanding turn is on the sufi anthem Haq Allah, with Hans Raaj Hans accompanying him. It helps that the song is garnished with petis and tablas (my sweet spot when it comes to these types of songs). And the song has a deliciously kinetic bridge.
There are two more songs on the CD that you can discover for yourself if this sounds up your alley. Sukhvinder does another version of Shreya's song (Mein Chala) and pairs up on Peer Manava with Shraddha Pandit.