Daur-e-Junoon - Junoon (2002)

Junoon's brand new release kicks-off with a blast: The bombastic heavy-rock version of a pure eastern classical song, "Gharaj Baras" What an excellent idea, indeed.

After stretching the fusion-related-dynamics of Sufi-Rock to the hilt, and mating rock with traditional Southern Punjabi and Sindhi sufi music, Junoon has now scored another first by clashing head-on Indo-Pak's classical raag music with hard-rock.... even though Hadiqa & Aamir Zaki's Rough Cut are doing the same by fusing pure eastern classic raag music with Portishead-like Trip-Hop and Jethtro-Tull-like Progressive Rock.

The powerful, wonderful "Gharaj Baras", by the way, is one of the three studio tracks on what is otherwise a live album. In fact, it is the local pop scene's first ever live album!

But the energy of "Gharaj Baras" actually creates a Catch 22 situation when it is followed by live versions of a series of Junoon hits. Because, and even though, live cuts of songs like "Mahi", "Sayonee", "Heeray", etc., do capture well the passion and the energy which usually vibrates at Junoon concerts, however, their production is such that (mainly due to the muffled sound of the drums & the bass), they start seeming a bit tame and light compared to the crisp production of the album's studio-tracks .... especially the thunderous, "Gharaj Baras".

Actually, the production of the album is rather inconsistent. Some live tracks do manage to jump up and out, while others sound like they're from a Junoon bootleg tape!

Whatever the case, and especially after Junoon's 2001 commercial and creative neo-filmi-pop-meets-sufi-rock fiasco, "Ishq" .... an album reflecting that maybe, this once-upon-a-time cult-rock band of angry-young-men, and then a leading (upfront, outspoken and bold) mainstream rock act, might be growing soft .... "Daur-e-Junoon" sets the record straight. Making Junoon sound and think boldly again by releasing a full-length live album; and that too, in a scene still unfamiliar with the concept of a live album! So all power to them and their (natural?) risk-taking instincts.

Another impressive aspect of the album is its cover, with thickly colourful art exhibiting scketches of the three band members, making them seem like characters right out from a sci-fi Marvel comic, or a neo-psychedelic "fantasy art" catalog.

I'm not not quite certain what sort of business "Daur-e-Junoon" (with its live album credidentials), will, or is expected to do in the local pop market. Because after all, it's the scene's first live album, and in spite the fact it has a chunk of the band's biggest hits (between 1991 and 2001), one can already find an even bigger chunk in this respect on the band's two "Best of...." compilation albums: 1998s self-indulgent and not so good, "Kashmakash," and then on 1999s great, "Dosti."

Hard-core Junoon fans and concert-goers will certainly go for "Daur-e-Junoon" (to relive the energy they feel at Junoon concerts), but I'm not all that sure about Junoon fans who discovered the band after Junoon's breakthrough album, 1996's eclectic, "Inquilaab," and especially during the big-selling, "Azadi" (1998).

However, since I've been a popular-music-critic for over a decade now, I would advise most of you who like Junoon's music, to taste, not only the feel of the scene's first live album, but also the power and the passion-play Junoon concerts are usually made of.

And for Junoon purists, try to ignore the big Coke logo on the album! I know there is just too much of the cola around them these days, but let's just hope it never gets up to the level Pepsi did regarding the Vital Signs, and, ironically, in the process, eventually drowned their leading contractees (with paranoid greed, corporate cynicism, etc).

As for the other two studio tracks on the album, I hope they were written & recorded only to exhibit Junoon's "peace-loving" stance & stand regarding reactionary fanaticism & relegious extremism (the sort which [between 1998 & late-'99] saw the right-wing/myopic and Ziaist PML(N) government ban the band's songs on PTV, and then saw Hindu fanatics [led by Bal Thakray] urging a ban on all Pakistani pop music acts touring or being aired in India)! Because, these two "bonus" studio tracks are absolutely nothing special, really. As a matter of fact, they are the album's weakest moments; so let's also hope they weren't recorded to charm Junoon's growing gora listenership in the West. This listenership will still go for matter like Nusrat Fateh Ali (singing in Punjabi!), and Junoon's Sufi-Rock chestnuts like, "Heer", "Saieen", "Sayonee", etc., dig?

Nadeem Farooq Paracha
The News International, Pakistan