5 Excellent


– A World-Class Rock Album and a Refreshing New Sound for Bollywood

Though my subject line says it all, I don’t think it justifies the greatness of the album fully hence this review…

Though this is a Bollywood film soundtrack, where you know that the songs need to appropriately fit into the film, Rock On is brilliant as a stand-alone music album mainly because the film’s plot also paves way for a lot of creative freedom in terms of music and lyrics.


Theoretically speaking, nothing can go wrong if you hand over the music department to Shankar Ehsaan Loy. The trio has proved this point time and again where sometimes the film flops but their music is a super hit and of course there are some films that only became a hit because of its music!
This album is no exception to that theory; whether the film does well or not is its own merit, but the album will definitely rock! The quite obvious reason behind this is that unlike most other music composers of today (barring the genius Rahman) Shankar Ehsaan and Loy are primarily brilliant musicians and virtuosos with their respective instruments. For those who didn’t know this, Shankar, apart from being the great gifted classical singer that he is, is also an accomplished keyboard player (FYI: the sarod interlude on Mitwa is Shankar on keys), Ehsaan is a GIT (Musicians Institute in LA) graduate and a blues-rock guitar specialist while Loy is a boss in jazz on the piano and also plays guitar.
Now Farhan on vocals may come as a shocker to you (fair enough, since you know him just as this brilliant director and son of Javedsaab). No he is not a wannabe rocker using voice filters and key correction as backup. He is a very good musician who sings very well since his school days and also plays the guitar quite well. Please do not put him down as a ‘timepass’ singer. (Check his personal Facebook Rock On Group and the video on his audition where he has played guitar and sung a very cool U2 song!)

The Music:
One cannot deny that this music is outright rock, but one repeated listening will make you appreciate the beauty of the strong melodies which actually sets it apart. The use of live drums, live bass and guitar sounds recorded live with mic-ed amps makes the sound raw and gives authentic vintage feel to the rock songs (A song-by-song analysis follows as a separate section). The songs featuring Farhan on vocals like Socha Hai, Pichhle Saat Dinon and Rock On have great riffs, catchy hook lines and chorus that immediately cling on. The essence of this album quite noticeably is the brilliant guitar work by Ehsaan. The distortion riffs, the solos and the clean guitar work on the ballads are all not just written and composed – They are all ‘crafted’ like a passionate sculptor with great attention to detail. Whatever SEL has done and will ever do, I’m sure Rock On will undoubtedly remain Ehsaan’s pet project! The softer songs including Farhan’s ballad Tum Ho Toh are all rich in melody yet structured such that the lines are not easily predictable.

The Lyrics:
What differentiates a Rock album from other genres?
Its not just heavy guitars and drums; its about the art of songwriting. The concept, the lyrics and song themes matter most. The best of successful vintage rock albums of all time will prove that the lyrics are less about boy-girl mush and more about generic themes on life, questions, personalities, adventures, politics, dark subjects and current affairs. The love songs are also generally deep ballads with mature lyrics rather than mushy schoolboy stuff.
I am sure Javedsaab has definitely researched a lot on this subject with substantial help from Farhan because ‘Rock On’ as an album on its own, justifies the rock genre songwriting in its true sense. You have songs on life, inspirational themes, on generic questions which have no answers, a dark song like Zehreelay, a thoroughly motivating song on Sindbad the sailor and some extremely soulful ballads.

The Songs:
Socha Hai – Farhan Akhtar
A great opener for the album. Neat slow riff followed by harmonics, enter the bass, and then vocals enter simultaneously with drums. Farhan sounds fresh and the lyrics are a clever mix of witty, comical and amusing spoonfuls of brain salad scooped out of a typical metrosexual youth’s brain. Listen to it and you will know what I mean.

Pichle Saat Dinon – Farhan Akhtar
This is an outright arena rock song (which is why you will also find a live version of the same) The correct way to appreciate this song is to close your eyes and place yourself in the middle of a rock concert and sing along the chorus lines “Na-Na Na-Na-Na” Try this and then comment

Rock On – Farhan Akhtar
The ‘title song’ as one would call songs from a typical Bollywood soundtrack. The sheer simplicity of this signature riff and its repeated appearance through the verses and interludes is the body of this song. The chorus line with ‘Rock On’ is immediately identifiable. In my books, this riff will go down as India’s own Smoke On The Water J

Ye Tumhari Meri Baatein – Dominique Cerejo
For those who don’t know Dominique, she and Clinton (her hubby) are the reigning duo for vocal arrangements for almost all Bollywood / Indipop projects in India. This soulful track with its fine textures, the rich overtones and the clarity of words showcases Dominique’s talent as a super vocalist. Check her out especially in parts where she smoothly moves into falsettos and comes back with equal ease.

Zehreelay – Suraj Jaggan
You may recall Suraj from the title track of Johnny Gaddar. But fyi Suraj – the voice is the one behind the Vodafone jingles ‘You and I’ and the more recent ‘Everyday I Want To Fly’. He being chosen to sing this track comes as no surprise for people who know him, as in his earlier days Suraj was the lead vocalist for Mumbai band – Krysys. The composition with its lyrics are intentionally kept dark as one can imagine a rock band competition where Farhan’s band is confronted by a rival band who belong to a different genre of rock (Death Metal types if you want to categorize it). Guitar lovers, check out Ehsaan’s speedy yet bluesy lines in the solo.

Tum Ho Toh – Farhan Akhtar
Enter the first ballad in this album. The track has SEL signatures written all over it with the guitar intro that evoke strains from Kaisi Hai Yeh Rut, Kal Ho Na Ho and Maa. The nuances of vocal mixes with feedback voices and harmony chorus lines are the highlights of this song. Check out Farhan’s vocals closely especially towards the end of the song. He is really good.

Sinbad The Sailor – Farhan Akhtar & Raman Mahadevan
This is the most enjoyable song in the album, an inspirational and motivating song using Sinbad’s life as a backdrop. The most interesting part in this song is the sudden change at around 4:30 minutes where Raman enters in. It’s a very intelligent change because till this point the song is all about Sinbad and his traits and as to how we must all get inspired by him and his successful venture. And then suddenly this change in music! and the lyrics!? Now this guy digresses and is talking in first person to a woman who is his real inspiration in life! Superb!!! Simply Brilliant!!!

Pichle Saat Dinon (Live Version) – Farhan Akhtar
This is the live version of track 2, with crowd cheers and clever live band arrangements where the vocalist starts demanding his share of cheers from the audience, starts crooning and drums enter much later.

Phir Dekhiye – Caralisa Monteiro
Ballad #2 – this time by a female. Caralisa’s voice is out of this world. Check out the bright warm tone of Ehsaan’s acoustic guitar with lovely piano in the background which beautifully creeps into the foreground on occasions.

Technical Details (as much as I could gather):
Ehsaan has used the PRS 513 guitar with a mic-ed amp on all the rock tracks barring Rock On where he has used a Fender Stratocaster through a Line 6.
Darshan has played the Tama drumkit.
Adi has played on his 5-string Yamaha bass.

Bottom Line:
Listen without prejudice!

5 / 5 stars
1. for a sincere effort
2. for the excellent sound engineering
3. for SEL’s brilliant musical arrangements
4. for Javedsaab’s lyrical bliss
5. for Farhan’s vocals (and Dominique, Caralisa, Raman & Suraj)

PS: Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J51MJsYMq_c to get a gist on how long back this concept was cooking...