The much awaited release of Ilaiyaraja's TIS has finally happened. This is how I felt listeing to it for the first time:
(1) Track 1 - poovaar - 4/5
Got my attention immediately. The use of oboe and the violins reminded me strongly of GURU. The "oooha" part drew comparisons from the BGM of Omen. This is my favorite - have been listening to it from the time I heard it. IR's voice really blends in. But a strange feeling that a voice like madhu balakrishnan's would have done better does come into my mind.
(2) Track 2 - pollaa vinayen - 3/5
Having been in various troupes, one notorious thing I have devloped over years is the irritating ability to spot apaswarams in vocals. The very first line rendered by IR is offscale (there are many other lines too). I wonder how a composer of his caliber did not take note of it. This track runs for more than 20 minutes. It has too many textures and layers and a first time listener would just simply lose track of the song ( I genuinely did). But if one could persevere till the end, he/she is in for a choral blast at the end which is superlative. The allegro at the end will remind us of Kalapani's "vandhe mataram" and "suttum sudar vizi".
(3) Track 3 - pooveru - 5/5
A symphonic arrangement for raga shuddha dhanyaasi (predominantly). Bhavatharini's voice is not an irritant at all. In fact I liked her voice blending in the song well. Reminded her rendition of "en veettu jannal etti". But I cannot help feeling that I miss chitra / sujatha in this beautiful song. A typical IR fan can easily blend into this song since it sounds more like vintage IR than Western Classical. Shuddha dhanyaasi and sumaneesa ranjani have long been raja's favorite ragams. I simply fail to understand how this man can come up with so many variations in the same raga. He has already given umpteen number of songs in SD. He started way back with it in alaigaL Oyvathillai - "viziyil vizundhu"
(4) Track 4 - umbarkatkarase - 3/5
Could not appreciate except for some phrases. Too complicated for me to understand and I did not quite like IR's rendition.
(5) Track 5 - muthu - 5/5
Super is the word. Very very much like "suttum sudar vizi paarvaiyile". When I told this to myself I realized the way I was trying to appreciate TIS or IR. I have been weighting / comparing TIS with the following past albums of IR all the time:
1. Guru - Malayalam
2. Kalapani (Siraichalai) - Malayalam
I also understood that I was able to appreciate those tracks which had rhythm more than the ones in free style. It was an exercise in understanding my way of appreciating music as a whole.
Did not quite like the voice of the lady who sings the first "muthu" line. Sounds very strained.
(6) Track 6 - putril - 3/5
Once again starts with apaswarams of IR. But I am not complaining here. I actually like this kind of "IR talking in songs". Two songs that I love to listen to all the time are from avathaaram - "oru kuNdumaNi kulungudhadi" and "aridhaaratha poosikkoLLa". Somehow I feel when he talks in between the song, he imparts life by defining the situation and somehow makes me visualize the situation. I liked this but the lead tune is a little folkish (Remember "kaadhal paattu dhaan paadikkO" ? ) and also a little weak (not very innovative). Since I have heard better stuff from IR in a similar genre I will not rate this very high.
BTW, the ratings are against his monumental work - GURU. I personally rate GURU as 5/5 for all the songs.
It is a beautiful album. IR is indeed a genius who took up film music only because that was the only way for him to express his musical brilliance. Had he been given other ways of venting his creativity, he would have shaken the world of fusion music and the kids in Americas/Europe would have read about his life and work as a chapter in history. This album is simply Ilaiyaraja. It is his style. Dont look for Bach, Mozart, Beethoven or tyagaraja, syama sastry or anybody else in there. You cannot find them. You can find Ilaiyaraja and only him - an admixture of geniality, creativity, innovation, his humility before the ultimate, his pride before his peers, his devotion, his eccentricities and his dreams. It is more than worth buying.
If I am asked what would be the albums I would like to be with if stranded in an uninhabited island, and whether I would choose TIS, I would reply as follows:
These are albums (in the order of prirority) which I would be with.
3. Bharatham (non-IR)
4. M.S.Subbalakshmi's selelcted songs like shree ranga pura vihara
5. PonveyililE and thaimavin thaNalin from Yatramozi
6. Thendral vandhu theeNdumpOdhu from avathaaram
Or in other words, TIS is great. But for me GURU is still the greatest album.