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Unforgettable tunes, forgettable rendering

This new release brings to you the diva's Mumbai concert

Unforgettable Lata
Sony Music
Rs 65

You can't get all these songs in the original in one album because various rival labels hold the copyright. But you can get them all from a live recording like this one.

Unforgettable Lata is compiled from a 1997 show at Mumbai's Andheri Sports Complex, and it presents her voice with an acoustic orchestra. Some time ago, Sony had brought out Yeh Shaam Mastani, a similar two-volume collection from an S P Balasubramanyam concert.

Agreed, many tunes Lata sings on this album are unforgettable. But then they are so because her voice, when she sang them originally, was at its magical best. It no longer is, and it is sad to see Lata falter. Many, including Yesudas, have hinted that Lata should stop singing. That's an individual decision, and perhaps no one has the right to question her determination to carry on singing. But let it be said that Lata is mostly incapable of the innocence she brought to many of the melodies that haunt India many decades after she first sang them.

Old numbers like Ajeeb dastan hai yeh and Naina barse take you back to an era where the voice and not the synth dominated. Flashes of the young Lata are in evidence in Aa jara re pardesi from Madhumati. Some of the waiting and mystery comes through.

Not all songs in the album qualify for the "unforgettable" title. Surely Lata has sung many more unforgettable numbers than Aate jaate from Maine Pyar Kiya. Nothing much happens in the lyrics other than S P Balasubramanyam and Lata alternatively singing Maine pyar kiya ...

The 22-minute Medley begins with Pyar kiya to darna kya and strings together the first few lines of many of her truly unforgettable numbers. Makes you want to hear them in full rather than in the antakshari style. Side B also features three more recent songs -- one each from Lekin, Maachis and Rudali.

For collectors, there is a lovely picture of Lata with a tanpura on the inside of the tape's jacket.

P B Parvathy

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