Between Heaven and Earth, a longing for background scores

It is close to 2 a.m. here in Miami, and I just finished a heck of a workday. Sampled a couple of new Hindi film soundtracks earlier tonight, and I shall look forward to reviewing them later in the week.

For now, here are some thoughts on another album I sampled today: A.R. Rahman's first full-fledged orchestral work -- an album titled Between Album and Earth (2004) -- which, according to an editorial review, is based on his original score to the film Warriors Of Heaven And Earth. I was gifted this album last Christmas, and boy was it an opportune time to finally listen to it today. It provided a much needed distraction around tea time (yes, some of us in the United States still celebrate tea time, although I must admit it is not a daily occurrence for me at least). I was noting thoughts on the tracks I found interesting as I listened, and had left the player settings to alphabetical, so these are not in the order they appear in the album. Remember I have not seen the film this album was based on, so if you have seen the film, do share your thoughts on the integration quotient.

1. Blue Light and Buddha's Remains are haunting tracks. As I was listening to the latter, a bird perched atop the tree branch closest to my bedroom window chose to yell (yes, I know the word's chirp, but this bird was chirping at the top of her lungs!). The chirping added an interesting note to the track, I must say.

2. Desert Storm will remind you of why A.R. Rahman was chosen as one of the composers for the Lord of the Rings act. An interesting track that starts off with the trumpet that was the primary instrument in Mr. Rahman's wonderful rendition of Vande Mataram.

3. Escape, my favorite track of the album, is energetic and invokes fear but a corresponding desire to rid ones self of it by doing something. That it reminds me of specific levels in the Sega Genesis video games Aladdin (where Aladdin is crossing a lava-laden screen on his magic carpet) and The Lion King (where Simba is running for dear life amid a wildebeest stampede) is besides the point. In fact, that tells me that the music succeeds!

4. Lai Chi would fit in perfectly as part of a background score to a war movie. It has a terrifying undertone to it, forcing one to think to the preparations for war back when horses and elephants provided the battlefield transportation.

5. Lord An's Empire is my least favorite of the tracks. If there is one thing I dislike in music, it is the kind of music that reminds one of death in a bad way (as opposed to in a good way, through the heavens for example, with tranquil music). No, no one wants to go through such a turbulent experience.

6. In what must require a salute to this album, the very next track offers exactly the tranquility I was referring to above. Mountains is an amazingly beautiful rendition which takes one close to all that is good in the rustic life, with references to mountains, valleys and rivers, each of which are said to be part of heaven!

7. Sehraa mein aayee hai shaam, dooba din kar ke salaam kicks off the beat to Warriors in Peace. It is a very good song, and I have a feeling one with a very similar tune was part of an A.R. Rehman soundtrack. I know I have heard the tune before. I cannot recall where, though...ah, well, who knows. Maybe it is just a figment of my imagination. Warriors of Heaven and Earth and Warriors in Peace (the English equivalent of Warriors in Peace) follow.

Overall, an interesting soundtrack with some excellent composition quality. I'm going with three and a half stars for a very good album that has ample elements of Middle Eastern, Indian, and Chinese music put together. If you enjoy world music, you definitely want to give this a listen.

Finally, if you are a fan of background scores, you will want to check this out. Which brings me to my Bollywood-related point. Here is something I wish was prominent in Hindi soundtrack releases. Let's have more background score tracks, please. Or maybe substitute a couple of those three or four remixes with original film music (not necessarily instrumentals)!

Music rating: 3.5/5 (Very good!)

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