To call your album Crowd Pleaser is a rather bold statement - it raises expectations from the offset, surely unnecessary pressure in an already competitive market. But Panjabi by Nature is obviously a man confident in his work, and his latest offering does go some way towards fulfilling its ambitious title.
Opening with the powerful Kaun Nee Jaandah, Panjabi by Nature immediately shows he is still capable of delivering of what he has become known for: clever collaboration. Teaming up with the Dhol Foundation is unlikely to be a bad move - this collective have turned the dhol from an instrument almost into a genre of its own, and their involvement is undoubtedly what gives the piece an edge.
PBN has also secured the services of big names such as Daljit Mattu, H Dhami, Miss Pooja, Heera, Liyakat Ali and Master Rakesh for this album. It is no mean feat to collect such a plethora of talent together, and is testament to the success of previous ventures such as Ready or Not and Homegrown. He continues in a similar vein this time, making the most of his various collaborators and tying things together in his signature style.
All of the tracks are put together well enough, but the impact of Kaun Nee Jaandah somewhat overshadows the following seven. Gereh Kad Dee (with vocals by H Dhami), Lak Hilda (produced with the legendary 80s band Heera) and Kaun Nachdi (sung by PBN himself) are all solid bhangra numbers, sure to appeal to fans of the genre and these artists. The piercing vocals of Miss Pooja, an acquired taste for some, are used to good effect on Boli, with a catchy chorus line and giddha beat. The remix version adds nothing of real value and was perhaps merely a way to crowbar in a more mainstream name in the form of MC Neat. Excellent work by Liyakat Ali is wasted on Lak Hildaa when coupled with a dull, perfunctory arrangement.
The melodies in this collection are pleasant rather than memorable and the production competent rather than imaginative - a visionary piece of work it isn't. Crowd Pleaser, ironically, may not be for everyone, but this Wolverhampton boy evidently knows his core audience and has come back with an album that's sure to appeal to existing fans.