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New Releases: July 2010 -> March 2011
Ethnic & World Music
Laurel Aitken -> Lawrence Walker

 

NEW COMPACT DISCS

 
JAMAICA LAUREL AITKEN Pressure Drop 10 Voodoo Woman $15.98
25 tracks, 72 mins, highly recommended
The follow-up to Pressure Drop's 2009 collection "Anthology: Godfather of Ska" (Pressure Drop 7 - two CD set - $18.98), this compilation brings together tracks that the Mods (as in "Mods and Rockers", ie teenagers) liked to dance to at the clubs. Aiken was huge among the Mods in the early and mid-60's and many of these tracks were recorded in 1966, a very prolific year for him singles-wise. With these tracks, we can hear the heavy influence of U.S. R&B and gospel either directly (Bewildered and Blue) or indirectly (Looking For My Baby) on the Jamaican root music that was lapped up by the hipsters of the time. Since the focus of this CD is dancing, it makes a fine companion to the earlier collection and a must have for the serious Ska collector. (GMC)

 
CAJUN CHRISTINE BALFA Valcour 890 Plays The Triangle $6.98
13 tracks, 56 min., see review
What can be said about an album of triangle solos that hasn't already been said by Dick Cheney's waterboarding team? Yes, Christine Balfa comes from a distinguished Cajun music family. But, and this is important, this CD is a joke. I don't mean that it is terrible, which it is. I mean it is meant as a joke, a jest, an intended gag gift. This album is every bit as appealing as listening to a metronome run down. The clues (aside from the music itself) that it is a joke on (among others) stodgy musicologist types include overwrought liner notes by "Dirk Powell, Expert." That's right, his official title is "expert," ladies and gentlemen. Or how about the note that informs listeners that "Christine plays a vintage 1986 Don Montoucet Triangle." Really? Vintage 1986? So, give this to that special someone who's just stuffy enough to try to explain why this is an enchanting and transcendent musical experience. Or get it as an obligation gift for people you dislike. They will never be sure if it was meant to torture them or if they just don't get it. Get it? (JC)

 
CUBA CELIA CRUZ Nascente 025 Cuba's Queen Of Song, 1950-1965 $15.98
2CD, 57 tracks, highly recommended
Celia Cruz was one of the most recognizable faces in Latin music with a large catalog to match; this latest collection compiles her early work with the band La Sonora Matancera (the Latin version of the Duke Ellington Orchestra), who she sang with for 15 years and who recorded for the American label Seeco. The first disc contains son and guaracha classics from La Sonora, including hits like Burundanga and Caramelos. While the second, although there are more cuts from La Sonora, focuses on little heard tracks Cruz cut in the mid 60's with the bands of Rene Hernandez and Vicentico Valdes. All of these songs put together give a fair overview of this phase of Cruz's career, before she went solo and began working with Tito Puente. Any respectable music collection of Latin music has to contain some Celia Cruz - one of the most influential singers ever - and this compilation, with its excellent liner notes and crisp sound, is a good place to start. (GMC)

 
CAJUN THE MAGNOLIA SISTERS Arhoolie 538 Stripped Down $12.98
16 tracks, 48 min., highly recommended
Despite the cover photo of four dresses hanging on a clothes line near a lake, the stripping here refers to the sisters' sound, which is described as "Cajun music played stripped down, no bells no whistles." Guitars, fiddles, accordions, basses, egg shakers, triangles, banjos, rubboards, yes. Bells and whistles, no. This is Cajun music for people who love Cajun music and for those who don't even like it, if any such there are. It's almost a shame to categorize such beautiful and spirited music. How could anyone not be charmed by Grand Texas or Waltz Of The Bayou or Tap Dance/ Bernadette? A treat, with or without clothes. (JC)

 
AFRICA-SOUTH AFRICA THE MANHATTAN BROTHERS Stern's Africa 3013 Their Greatest Hits, 1948-1959 $15.98
20 tracks, 53 mins, highly recommended
Available again. Wonderful collection of 20 sides by the most popular South African vocal group of the 1950s. Their music was a blend of African American jazz and vocal group stylings, a dash of rock 'n' roll and a South African sensibility and is truly delghtful. Several songs are sung in English a couple of songs features the group accompanying Miriam Mekba. Set comes with superb 20 page booklet with detailed and very interesting notes by compiler Rob Alligham. (FS)

 
CAJUN DENNIS MCGEE Valcour 011 Himself $13.98
33 tracks, 42 min., recommended
McGee recorded between 1927-1934 with Angelas LeJeune, Amede Ardoin, and by the time of this recording, had faded into obscurity. When Gerard Dole found him in Southwest Louisiana in 1975, McGee was operating a furniture store and working as a barber. Dole, who traveled with a Nagra III reel-to-reel recorder, set up his equipment and McGee took over, playing dozens of songs, many of which had been previously lost to time, or at least misplaced. A fascinating document of historical importance, to be sure, this recording includes McGee's comments (thought not in English) between songs such as Rosalie/ Contredanse/ La Valse Du Cow-Boy/ Corina Corina/ Jim Crow Ou Galop/ Fais Dodo, among others; but, for the casual fan, this may be a bit too unvarnished and "authentic," what with the coughing and sour notes and such. (JC)

 
AFRICA-GHANA PSYCHEDELIC ALIENS Academy 5 The Psycho African Beat $15.98
8 tracks, 24 mins, highly recommended
This is a beautifully packaged, extensively researched, astutely put together CD that collects all of 8 tracks by a band that I'm sure at least 99% of you have never heard of! Nice to see this kind of thing still happening nowadays, but is it worth all of the fuss? Well it sure is a fun and funky little gem that fans of Afro-Beat as well as obscure Funk and Soul will probably dig. The Psychedelic Aliens must have seemed like they were from outer-space; not a whole lot of people in Ghana in the Late '60s and early '70s could have been hip enough to appreciate what they had in their own front yard. In 1973 the film "Shaft In Africa" was made, the third in the popular Blaxploitation series; if the band hadn't been already broken up for a couple years by that point, they could have provided the perfect soundtrack. The Aliens managed to get a couple singles out, but couldn't go the distance, like so many classic Music legends. The lengthy liner notes provided by bandleader Carl Ricky Telfer will tell the whole story. (JM)

 
JAMAICA MAX ROMEO Esoldun 705 Wet Dream $10.98
15 tracks, recommended
Deleted - limited stock. 12 tracks by Max Romeo plus tracks from Bunny Lee All Stars, Derrick Morgan and Soul Syndicate. It includes his 1968 double entendre hit Wet Dream which was banned by the BBC (Max claimed it was about a leaky roof) and in a similar vein Pussy Watchman and Derrick Morgan's My Dickie which is even less subtle. Most of the rest are more straightforward reggae tracks with songs about love and local culture and several political songs which was to point the way to his future career as a musical spokesman for Rastafarianism. The Tracks by Bunny Lee All Stars and Soul Syndicate are fine reggae instrumentals. (FS)

 
JAMAICA ROY SHIRLEY Trojan 80424 Music Is The Key - The Anthology, 1967-1975 $22.98
2003 release. Two CD set with 40 tracks from this rocksteady/ reggae star - Hold Them/ Touch Them (Never Let Them Go)/ Girlie/ Fantastic Lover/ Dance The Reggay/ Bright Life/ Prophecy Fulfilling/ Don't Do That/ Dance Of Love/ Wonderful People/ Prayer From The Priest, Parts 1 & 2, etc.

 
GREECE MARKOS VAMVAKARIS JSP JSPCD 77132 Complete Recordings,1932-1937 Plus Selections From 1938 $28.98
Another fantastic box set of Greek rembetika music from JSP compiled and annotated by Charles Howard. Four CDs with 85 songs from one of the giants of rembetika music. With his gruff vocal style he brings to mind a Greek Howlin' Wolf! Vamvakaris was one of the seminal figures in rembetika music who helped popularize the use of the bouzouki in Greek music. The recordings generally featuring Markos and his bouzouki backed by a small group of string players and an occasional female vocalist.

 
NORTENO VARIOUS ARTISTS Arhoolie 367 Ballads & Corridos, 1949-1975 $12.98
22 tracks, 69 min., highly recommended
Anyone with even a passing interest in narco-corridos or Mexican / Mexican-American history should be drawn to this excellent Arhoolie release. The celebration of famous and infamous figures of Mexico via song is carefully traced and examined here by Professor James Nicolopulos in his scholarly and fascinating booklet notes. (The transcriptions and translations of the songs are included on the CD.) Subject matter includes local violent criminals, the Kennedy assassination, Martin Luther King's assassination, the death of Caryl Chessman in San Quentin's gas chamber, striking farm workers, and much more. One of the more curious additions comes from Los Magnifikos (written by Arnaldo & Rafael Ramirez) which takes as its subject the kidnapping of Patty Hearst. It is apparently drawn from an entire LP of Hearst corridos. Artists include Juanita y Maria Mendoza, Los Nortenos de Teran, Los Desveladores, Meme y Lupe Cardenas, Los Bravos de Matamoros, Los Oros del Valle, Dueto Reynosa, and many others. Sound quality is uniformly fine. An interesting find! (JC)

 
CAJUN VARIOUS ARTISTS Bear Family BCD 17206 Acadian All Star Special - Cajun Recordings of J.D. Mil $97.98
Incredible three CD set with 78 tracks and 80 page hard cover book featuring recordings of Cajun music made between 1946 and 1959 for legendary Crowley, Louisiana record producer J.D. Miller and issued on his Fais-Do-Do and Feature. Miller is best known for his classic blues recordings released on Excello (Slim Harpo, Lightnin' Slim, Lazy Lester, etc). Information on these Cajun recordings has been very sketchy and many of the recordings are exceedingly rare and most are making their first appearance on LP or CD! The material ranges from the simple fiddle and guitar records of "Doc" Guidry and "Happy" Fats to the raucous sides of Robert Bertrand and the Lake Charles Playboys. Included here are the first recordings of Jimmy Newman, Terry Clement's original recording of Diggy Diggy Lo and Papa Cairo's Big Texas - the song that was adapted by Hank Williams as Jamabalaya. Other artists include Jimmy Choates & The Melody Boys, Austin Pete (Pitrie) & His Evangeline Playboys, Amidie Breaux & The Acadian Aces, Lionel Cormier & His Sundown Playboys, Abe Manual & His Louisiana Hillbillies and others. Cajun music expert Lyle Ferbach, who wrote the book, tracked down as many survivors and relatives to interview. The book is crammed with rare photos, label shots and includes full discographical information.
ROBERT BERTRAND & THE LAKE CHARLES PLAYBOYS: Drunkard's Two Step/ Lost Love Waltz/ AMIDIE BREAUX & HIS BAND: Hard Luck Waltz/ Hey, Mom!/ AMIDIE BREAUX & THE ACADIAN ACES: Acadian Two Step/ Criminal Waltz/ Jole Blonde/ Poor Hobo/ PEE WEE BROUSSARD & HIS MELODY BOYS: Chere Tu Tu/ Creole Stomp/ Le Valse De Bayou Blanc/ M&S Special/ The Pee Wee Special/ The Waltz That Carried Me To The Grave/ JIMMY CHOATES & HIS MELODY BOYS: Chere Meon/ Petite Negress/ TERRY CLEMENT & HIS RHYTHMIC FIVE: Diggy Liggy Lo/ Le Valse De Te Maurice/ LIONEL CORMIER & HIS SUNDOWN PLAYBOYS: Sundown Playboys Special/ Welcome Club Waltz/ JIMMY DURBIN & THE COUNTRY BOYS: Drunkard Waltz/ Fais Do Do Two Step/ CHUCK GUILLORY & HIS BOYS: Oakdale Waltz/ Walfus Two Step/ CHUCK GUILLORY & HIS RHYTHM BOYS: Chuck's Waltz/ Teiyut Two Step/ HAPPY & DOCTOR AND THE HADACOL BOYS: Crowley Two Step/ La Valse De Hadacol/ HAPPY, DOC & THE BOYS: Allons Dance Colinda/ Bayou La-Fourche/ Chere Cherie/ Dans La Platin/ Don't Hang Around/ Fais Do Do Breakdown/ Gabriel Waltz/ Is It Too Late To Cry/ La Cravat/ My Sweetheart's My Buddy's Wife/ New Jolie Blond/ Setre Chandelle/ Somehow You Don't Care/ Sothe Fermon/ LEBLANC & ADAMS AND THE VERMILLION PLAY: Chere Petite Brun/ Vermillion Two Step/ ABE MANUEL & HIS LOUISIANA HILLBILLIES: Country Gentleman (French)/ Country Girl/ Hippy-Ti-Yo/ I've Got Your Heart Locked Up (French)/ CLEVELAND MIRE & THE JOLLY BOYS: Hudson Breakdown/ Prison Waltz/ JIMMY NEWMAN & THE RHYTHM BOYS: (I Know Now That) I've Made A Big Mistake/ I Don't Know What I'm Going To Do/ PAPA CAIRO & HIS BOYS: Big Texas (English)/ Big Texas (French)/ AUSTIN PETE & HIS EVANGELINE PLAYBOYS: Chatatinia Waltz/ Evangeline Playboys Special/ High Point Two Step/ Redell Waltz/ AUSTIN PETE & THE LOUISIANA RHYTHMAIRES: Janot Special/ La Valse De Chagrin/ Prison Two Step/ ALDUS ROGER & LAFAYETTE PLAYBOYS: Hix Wagon Wheel Special/ Love Sick Waltz/ Mardi Gras Dance/ The Lafayette Playboys Waltz/ LEE SONNIER & HIS ACADIAN ALL STARS: Acadian All Star Special/ Along The River/ Cankton Two Step/ Chere Catan/ Chere Eci Et Cher Laba/ Dans Les Grand Meche/ La Blues De Cajin/ War Widow Waltz/ LOUIS SPELL & HIS FRENCH SERENADERS: Lover's Waltz/ The Fifty Cent Song/ THE VETERAN PLAYBOYS: Chinaball Special/ Eunice Waltz

 
ETHIOPIA VARIOUS ARTISTS Buda 82222 Ethiopiques, Vol. 10 - Tezeta $15.98
13 tracks, 75 min., highly recommended
Volume 10 in the Buda Records (1969-1978) reissue program turns its attention to music for dark nights of the soul. The subtitle is "Ethiopian Blues & Ballads," and the selections do possess a wistfulness and melancholy that transcends language, although the lyrics appear in English in the booklet. One song contains the line, "I have lost my health; you are my disease." Another says, "Everyone trips you, but no-one helps you to pick yourself up." Cheery stuff. Blame it on love. One of the standouts here, Mahmoud Ashmed's proto-downtempo Tezeta clocks in at 12:25 and still leaves listeners wanting more. It's a miniature soundtrack to despair that brings magical relief for the miserable. Ahmed himself is described in the booklet notes as "the Ethiopian artist least unknown to the western public." Yes. Nicely put. Other artists include Frew Hayloe, Alemayehu Eshete, Menelik Weesnatchew, Getatchew Kassa, Muluqen Mellesse, among others. Impressive. (JC)

 
AFRICA-MISCELLANEOUS VARIOUS ARTISTS Discograph 1846060 Africa- 50 Years Of Music, 1960-2010 $129.98
Amazing 18 CD box set celebrating 50 years of African independence with 50 years worth of music. Three CDs each each from West, Southern, East, Central, North and Lusophone (Portugese speaking) Africa - almost 17 hours of music drawn from 38 different African nations. 185 performances by 183 different artists from all part of this massive continent including such legendary names as Miriam Makeba, Alpha Blondy, Fela Kuti, Mory Kante, Youssou N'Dour, Toure Kunda, Franco, Abdullah Ibrahim, Cheb Khaled, Thomas Mapfumo, Cesaria Evora, Aster Aweke, Mulatu Astatke, Salif Keita, Manu Dibango, Oum Kalsoum and many others. The tracks, licensed from some of the world's most respected record companies, are all original studio recordings or, in a few cases, famous concert performances. Most of them were made in the 50 years from 1960 to 2010 - the main era of African independence - but two landmark Egyptian classics date from the 1940s. Many of these songs are known and loved worldwide: Pata Pata/ Soul Makossa/ Yeke Yeke/ Sweet Mother/ Mario/ Shakara/ Jive Soweto while many others will be revelations to even the most dedicated record collectors. Packaged in a 5 1/2" X 11" long box with a 76-page book of photographs, record cover reproductions, specially-commissioned artwork and essays by experts on each of Africa's popular styles. A perfect place to start a collection of African music.

 
HAWAII VARIOUS ARTISTS Golden Stars 5418 Hawaiian Treasures $18.98
Three CD set with 48 tracks. An entertaining and wide ranging collection of Hawaiian music including slack key, steel guitar and more popular type stylings. No notes or recording information but it sounds like the material ranges from the 20s through the 60s and includes a number of tracks not available elsewhere. Includes sides by Sol Ho'opi Trio, Gabby Pahinui, King Nawahi's Hawaiians, Kalama's Quartet, Haleloke, Tau Moe & His Original Hawaiians, Kanui & Lula, Andy Iona & His Islanders, Sol K. Bright & His Hollywaiians, Joe Keawe & The Lei, Andy Cummings & His Hawaiian Serenaders, Henry Kaalekaahi and others. Sound is fine.
JOHN K. ALMEIDA & JOE KEAWE'S HARMONY HAWAIIANS: Heeia/ JOHN K. ALMEIDA & JULIA NUI'S KAMA'AINAS: On The Beach At Waikiki/ PUA ALMEIDA & RANDY ONESS' SELECT HAWAIIAN S: Ku'u Ipo Pua Rose/ ALFRED APAKA: Aloha Oe/ Twilight In Hawaii/ Two Shadows On the Sand/ Makalupa/ SOL K. BRIGHT & HIS HOLLYWAIIANS: Papio/ SOL K. BRIGHT'S HOLLYWAIIANS: Hawaiian Cowboy/ La Rosita/ ANDY CUMMINGS & HIS HAWAIIAN SERENADERS: Kaimana Hila/ Maui Girl/ HOOT GIBSON: Mai Givee (Don't Give It Away)/ HALELOKE: Alekoki/ SOL HO'OPII & HIS HAWAIIAN QUARTETTE: Hula Girl/ SOL HO'OPII & HIS NOVELTY FOUR: Iniki Malie/ SOL HO'OPII TRIO: Palolo/ HONOLULU POLICE GLEE CLUB: Ulili E/ ANDY IONA & HIS ISLANDERS: Minnehaha (Hawaiian Stomp)/ Ta-Hu-Wa-Hu-Wa-I/ HENRY KAALEKAAHI: Ho'okipa Paka-Maunawili Medley/ KALAMA'S QUARTET: He Manao He Aloha/ Lei E/ Sassy/ Tu-Tu-E, Tu-Tu-Hoi/ ALVIN KALEOLANI ISAACS & HIS ROYAL HAWAIIANS: Aloha Ku'u Pua/ DOROTHY KALIMA & THE K SISTERS: Ali'ipoe/ KANUI & LULA: Tomi, Tomi/ GENOA KEAWE & HER HULA MAIDS: Nani Wai'ale'ale/ GENOA KEAWE & JOHN K. ALMEIDA'S HAWAIIANS: Maile Swing/ JOE KEAWE & THE LEI: Papalina Lahilahi/ MABEL KEKINO & THE K SISTERS: Puamana/ JACOB K. MAKA & JOHN K. ALMEIDA'S HAWAIIANS: Ka Wai O Namolokama/ TAU MOE & HIS ORIGINAL HAWAIIANS: Hula Blues/ Little Brown Girl/ TAU MOE & LANI MOE: Hilo Hattie/ GEORGE NAOPE & GENOA KEAWE: Hupe Kole/ KING NAWAHI'S HAWAIIAN BEACH COMBERS: Hawaiian Me/ KING NAWAHI'S HAWAIIANS: I Went To Hilo/ May Day is Lei Day In Hawaii/ Ticklin' the Strings/ KING NAWAII'S HAWAIIANS: Mauna Kea/ JOHNNY NOBLE & HIS HAWAIIAN MUSIC: Hilo E/ Lei Ohu/ GABBY PAHINUI: Hula Medley/ Ki Ho'alu/ Wai O Ke Aniani/ PALAKIKO & PAALUHI: Maui

 
AFRICA-EAST AFRICA VARIOUS ARTISTS Honest Jon's 50 Something Is Wrong - Vintage Recordings From East Africa $25.98
2CDs, 35 tracks, highly recommended
Once more the Honest Jon's label brings us exotic music from the early 20th century; "Something is Wrong" presents recordings drawn from EMI's vaults that were recorded in Kenya and Uganda between 1938 and 1957. These "Native Records" (i.e. recordings that were aimed at native Africans rather than the white colonialists or communities of Indian traders and clerks) were pressed by EMI in England and returned for sale in East Africa. These recordings constitute, more or less, the popular music of the day and fall into three types of performance: minstrelsy, percussion-based ensembles, and taarab. Minstrels, typified by Ssekinomu on Wireless and Ali & Party on Enyi Wa Hiari, were often social commentators as much as they were entertainers and usually accompanied themselves on stringed instruments, especially lyres. Taarab is characterized by lilting melodies that are usually provided by violins or Indian harmoniums, Indian or Arabic percussion, and sometimes an Arabic oud; Jumbe Ali's Silwezi Tabu and Badi & Party's Wangu Mliwazi. As for the percussion bands-like Florence, Wasonga Muga, and Oluoch for example-they often played at parties or other celebrations and the upbeat-in every sense-music reflects that distinction. As is often the case with recordings from Africa, the sound quality is not of the greatest fidelity but this is an invaluable record of musicians that very little is known about. And it's fun to listen to too. (GMC)

 
CUBA VARIOUS ARTISTS Not Now 361 Cafe Cuba - 50 Original Cuban Classics $9.98
2 CDs, 50 tracks, highly recommended
This excellent compilation of Cuban music contains examples of many of the different styles that have emerge from the island during the last century-guajira, son, salsa, rumba, mambo, and latin jazz-as played by the most important and bands and artists of Cuban music's golden years, including Abelardo Barroso, Sonora Matancera (featuring Celia Cruz on Melao De Cana), Perez Prado, Tito Puente, Beny More, and Mongo Santamaria. Other highlights include early work from future Buena Vista Social Club members Omara Portuondo, Ruben Gonzalez, Ibrahim Ferrer, and Compay Segundo, as well as treats like the first rumba song- El Manisero-performed here by Antonio Machin. The liner notes could have been a tad more comprehensive, but every major player in Cuban music is present and accounted for which makes this a perfect place for the novice to start or for a fan to get a one-stop-shopping CD. (GMC)

 
CAJUN VARIOUS ARTISTS Rounder 6121 Louisiana Cajun And Creole Music: Newport Field Recordings $17.98
27 tracks, 75 mins, very highly recommended
Terrific collection of traditional Cajun and Creole music collected by folklorist Ralph Rinzler on behalf of the Newport Folk Foundation between 1964 and 1966 and previously available on two of Rounder's first Cajun CDs. The first 7 tracks are vintage Balfa Brothers material with at times 3 fiddlers (Dewey, Will & Rodney) plus the triangle of Harry or Nelda Balfa, accordion by Hadley Fontenot and guitar by Rodney Balfa. There are three tracks by superb singer and fiddler Austin Pitre - two of them recorded live at a dance with a band including a version of his most famous song Les Flammes D'Enfer. Edius Naquin was the oldest performer here and performed in the oldest style with just vocal and fiddle - four beautiful performances. There are five tracks here devoted to creole musicians Alphonse 'Bois Sec' Ardoin and Canray Fontenot, on accordion and fiddle respectively. Canray is in especially fine form on Jug Au Plombeau (Bottle on the Saddlehor). Singer and harmonica player Isom Fonenot is featured one track accompanied by fiddler Aubrey DeVille and guitarist Preston Manuel who have a track to themselves. The disc ends with five tracks by the exciting duo of Adam & Cyprien Landreneau with vocals, accordion and fiddle plus Dewey Balfa on triangle. They perform in an uncompromising traditional style with raw abandon. Complementing the music is a superb 84 page booklet which is a pdf file on the disc with in depth notes, photos, lyric transcripts annd more. Wonderful stuff. (FS)

 
AFRICA-SOUTH AFRICA VARIOUS ARTISTS Sony (South Africa) 68783-2 Celebrate The Best Of South African Traditional Folk Music $10.98
14 tracks, 58 min., recommended
No, that's not Swahili on the back tray card, it's a typographical disaster. So while track 10 is correctly listed as Long Ago by Kwa Shaka Dynamics in the booklet, the tray card gives the track as number 21 and the song title as !MPOH!BHP as by LXB!TIBLB!EZOBNJDT. You get the idea. One could also fuss with the album title, since this collection has little business with "traditional folk music," at least as that phrase is commonly understood. The good news it that, like other volumes in this series, the album is full of wonderful music. If the Boyoyo Boys' Alex Corner doesn't bring you to your feet, there may be a little tag tied around your big toe. Likewise for the tracks by Vusi Ximba (Amazambane), Dilika (Lomhlaba), Impumelelo (Imikhuba), Abagqobhi (Ngiyaifun'imali Yami), and more. Fans of Paul Simon's Graceland should find much to get happy about here. A great little various artists oddity. (JC)

 
AFRICA-SOUTH AFRICA VARIOUS ARTISTS Sony (South Africa) 68786-2 Celebrate The Best Of South African Jazz $10.98
14 tracks, 76 min., recommended
Those looking for a little education with their South African jazz will have to keep looking, as the booklet offers nothing more than song titles, artists names, and song writing credits. But if Sony cheaped out on the notes, they at least sprang for some quality tunes, including Phatha Phatha by the Elite Singers, the aptly titled Smooth Survivor by Four Forty, the uplifting Maru A Pula by the always impressive Letta Mbulu, and many more. Sometimes the jazz is glass smooth, sometimes it gets a bit feisty, but it's always completely accessible. Superstar Sibongile Khumalo is represented by a live performance of her Township Medley, which is anything but quiet. Perhaps the best known artist here is Hugh Masekela, But the finest moment belongs to Jonas Gwangwa for his sparkling Kgomo, with the instrumental Township Dance by Oupa Makhubela a close second. A nice starting point for S.A. jazz exploration, a solid various artists compilation. (JC)

 
AFRICA-SOUTH AFRICA VARIOUS ARTISTS Sony (South Africa) 68849-2 Celebrate The Best Of South African Choral & Gospel $10.98
14 tracks, 56 min., highly recommended
No information given with this one, and the artists are pretty obscure (at least outside of gospel circles in South Africa). Despite a booklet full of nothing, and singing that is almost never in English, the music is irresistible. Sure, I can only guess at what they may be saying, but whatever it is, it sounds life affirming and joyous. So, Masibuyele Ku Jehova may very well be singing about Dick Cheney's political legacy on Abantu Balibele, I chose to believe it is a song of religious affirmation and life eternal. Other artists include Pongola Gospel Wagon, Avante, Vuyo Mokoena, Rebone Kgotso, Jabu Hlongwane, Derrick Ndzimande, among others. A little mysterious in origin, but a bit of a find. (JC)

 
CHINA VARIOUS ARTISTS Sublime Frequencies 057 Ethnic Minority Music Of Northwest Xinjiang, China $16.98
17 tracks, 61 mins, highly recommended
Superb field recordings of traditional music collected by Laurent Jeanneau and Shi Tanding in the northwest corner of China's Xinjiang province during the weeks leading up to the volatile Uyghur uprising of 2009. The recordings, preserved here, display several unique varieties of traditional Islamic folk music with traces of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish influences heard throughout. The players are Kazakh, Uyghur, Kirgiz and Mongol Erut musicians performing on a wide array of local stringed instruments including topchar (2 nylon string instrument), komuz (3 string fretless plucked instrument), dongbar (2 stringed plucked lute), satar (1 stringed bowed instrument with 12 side strings) and others. Most of the performances are solo instrumentals with occasional vocals and one duet and one trio performance. The music is powerful, haunting and beautiful and accessible to Western ears. The CD comes with a 16-page full-color booklet featuring photos of the musicians and informative liner notes chronicling the journey and trials in making these recordings, notes on the musicians, instruments and performances. Sound quality is superb. (FS)

 
AFRICA-GUINEE VARIOUS ARTISTS Syllart 6129872 African Pearls: Vol. 2 - Guinee - Cultural Revolution $22.98
Two CDs, 25 tracks, very highly recommended
"Guinean music was in the vanguard of African music -- it was the musical beacon of Africa." These words by Maestro Mitoura Traor beautifully reflect the importance and influence of the renowned Guinean bands of the 1960s and 70s. Traor was a trailblazer as the leader of Horoya Band National, one of the first Guinean bands formed after independence in 1958. Horoya Band National, as well as other bands such as Balla et ses Balladins, Kltigui et ses Tambourinis, and Super Boiro Band (all featured here) were forerunners of the "cultural revolution," whose official objective was to modernize traditional Guinean music and to restore national pride and dignity. This cultural revolution, like many other radical events in Africa during the 1950s and '60s, found its roots in the fight for independence. A very diverse collection is featured here, covering the period from just before independence through 1986. In addition to the aforementioned groups the material ranges from a flute instrumental by Ensemble Instrumental du Mali to some small group acoustic string groups like African Virtuoses and Virtuoses Diabate to the wonderful electric group Bemebeya Jazz National featuring the amazing and legendary guitarist Sekou Diabate aka "Diamond Fingers." There are also tracks by South African female singer-in-exile Miriam Makeba, legendary Guinean saxophonist Momo Wandel and much more. Includes a 24-page booklet with full-color photos and notes in English and French. Wonderful music. (FS)

 
AFRICA-MALI VARIOUS ARTISTS Syllart 6130132 African Pearls: Vol. 3 - Mali - One Day On Radio Mali $22.98
Two CDs, 22 tracks, 146 mins, highly recommended
Following independence in 1960 and the establishment of Radio Mali the Malian government actively and financially supported music (now there's a concept!). Radio Mali made recordings of musicians from all over Mali representing the diverse styles - old and new - in this huge country of over ten million inhabitants. Unfortunately not all these recordings survived but in the 1980s a selection were issued as a series of five albums which forms the basis of this gorgeous two CD collection which features recordings made between 1965 and 1985. The first disc is mostly rural performers - solo or small groups, usually featuring instruments like the kora, balafon, ngonmi and percussion. The kora duet from Siki Diabate and Djelimadi Sissiki is a truly and haunting shimmering instrumental. The second disc is devoted to the larger "Orchestras" some of which were to provide the jumping off for some musicians who were to achieve worldwide acclaim and fame like Salif Keita (who is heard here with Les Ambassadeurs du Motel and The Rail Band), Zani Diabate (singing and playing superb guitar with Super Djata de Bamako) and Kasse Mady (with National Badema). It also includes tracks by The "A" National Orchestra (formed the day after independence and the first Malian group to play electric instruments) and various regional bands. Two sides of Malian - both very different and both very wonderful. (FS)

 
AFRICA-SENEGAL VARIOUS ARTISTS Syllart 6131572 African Pearls, Vol. 4: Senegal - The Teranga Spirit $22.98
Two CDs, 30 tracks, highly recommended
Another superb collection of African music from the 60s and 70s - this time from Senegal and the adjacent nation of The Gambia. Most of disc one features traditional stylings focusing on powerful declamatory vocal stylings with accompaniments by percussion and various stringed instruments including kora, xalam, ngoni and guitar. It includes a track by legendary griot Ndiaga Mbaye - a brilliant singer, philosopher and poet who was so influential on the Senegalese music scene that Youssou Ndour dedicated his 2005 Grammy to him. In the 60s Senegal, like other West African nations, became entranced by Cuban music and many bands performed rumba and salsa influenced music represented here by the great Orchestra Baobob, Star Number One (featuring the gruff voiced vocalist Papa Seck) and others. In the mid 70s, Senegalese musicians started to integrate traditional rhythmic structures and instruments into the music and adding elements of American soul and funk resulting in a musical style called mbalax featured here by such great musicians as Ouza Diallo, Ifang Bondi, The Star Band and others. A wonderfully exciting and varied collection.

 
AFRICA-CONGO VARIOUS ARTISTS Syllart 6139342 African Pearls: Congo 70 - Rumba Rock $22.98
Two CDs, 23 tracks, highly recommended
This volume in this great series features recordings from Congo in the 70s. The influence of Cuban music was waning and the style that developed was called "rumba rock" and it's powerful rhythms and ringing electric guitar work influenced many other orchestras on the African continent. This set features some of the legendary and influential Congolese artists like Franco et OK Jazz, his rival Tabuley Rochereau (his 10 minute Maze is a fantastic tour de force of great singing and guitar playing with some hot tenor sax thrown in for good measure)), the iconoclastic Papa Wemba et Viva la Musica, the amazing Dr. Nico with his truly sublime Hawaiian guitar playing, Zaiko Langa Langa and other less well known but very fine artists. This CD is loaded with sensuous irresistible rhythms, haunting vocals with gorgeous harmonies and dynamite guitar playing. (FS)

 
AFRICA-GUINEE VARIOUS ARTISTS Syllart 6140252 African Pearls: Guinee 70 - The Discotheque Years $22.98
Two CDs, 25 tracks, very highly recommended
Another fabulous collection of African music - this time Guinea which achieved it's independence from France in 1958 and for 26 years was ruled by Marxist dictator Sekou Toure who put great emphasis on boosting Guinea's pride, both on a cultural and spiritual level. His party sponsored numerous local, federal and national orchestras who produced some of Africa's greatest and most influential music in the 1970s when the recordings here were made. The music made in Guinea drew on local traditions, Afro-Cuban, pop, rhythm & blues and rock influences. Powerful lead singers, wonderful vocal harmonies and instrumental arrangements including hard driving horn sections, dynamic guitar work and in the case of the Super Boiro Band some amazing organ work. The traditional balafon is heard in the recordings by Horoya Band National and Sopry Kandia Kouyate and the rock influences make their presence felt in the incredible music of Pivi & Ses Balladins who's Samba is considered one of Guinea's best dance tracks ever with it's incredibly propulsive rhythm, fuzz guitar and soaring horn work. You'd need to have a strong heart to dance to this one! Lots of other great artists are here including the venerable Bembeya Jazz National featuring the twinkling guitar of Sekou Diabate, Camayenne Sofa, Kaloum Star, Tele Jazz De Teleme and others. Another wonderful and indispensible collection. (FS)

 
AFRICA-MALI VARIOUS ARTISTS Syllart 6141132 African Pearls: Mali 70 - Electric Mali $22.98
Two CDs, 24 tracks, very highly recommended
The second collection of music from Mali continues the trend of the second disc on the first collection featuring bands and orchestras - some that started in the 60s and others in the 70s. The musicians had amplified their guitars, acquired electric organs, recruited fantastic lead singers and expanded and sharpened their horn sections. I'm not normally an enthusiast for the electric organ but the musicians here play it in a whole different and immensely appealing way - listen to the incredible solo on Djama by Idrissa Soumaoro whose band also includes a young Amadou Bagayoko of future Amadou & Mariam fame. Some of the groups like The Rail Band (featuring the great albino vocalist Salif Keita), The Super Djata (with revolutionary guitar stylist Zani Diabate), National Badema (with Kasse Mafy on vocals) and others became well known outside Africa while others here are more obscure, sometime having recorded only one single or LP. There's one treasure after another to discover here in this incredibly varied selection and in addition to exceptional guitar and electric organ playing some tracks also feature hot saxophone solos. Riveting, haunting and shimmering music that really gets under your skin. (FS)

 
ARMENIA VARIOUS ARTISTS Traditional Crossroads 4279 Armenians On 8th Avenue $15.98
22 tracks, highly recommended
1996 release. Reissue of 22 sides recorded in the 40s for small local labels featuring Armenian-Turkish musicians popular with the Armenians who thronged the many Armenian clubs on 8th Avenue in New York in the 1940s and 50s. The music is vibrant featuring mostly traditional instruments like the ud, kanun, violin and clarinet - the material includes popular songs as well as more classical pieces featuring gazels (vocal improvisations). All the songs are sung in Turkish. Although not well known outside the Armenian community it includes legendary performers like Kanuni Garbis, Marko Melkon, "Sugar Mary" Vartanian and others. Sound quality is superb and there is a 28 page booklet with informative notes and song lyrics in Turkish and English. (FS)

 
TURKEY VARIOUS ARTISTS Traditional Crossroads 4280 Women Of Istanbul $15.98
24 tracks, 77 mins, highly recommended
1998 release. Superb collection of songs by Turkish female singers recorded between 1929 and 1953 with the majority being from the 1930s. There were a vast range of musical styles in Turkey in the period and this collection focuses on the folk repertoire (turku), light classical songs (sarkt) and light urban lieder (canto) which became the popular music of Istanbul's nightclubs and theaters. Most of the singers here are little known in the West with the the exception of Roza Eskenazi who was born in Istanbul and moved to Greece in 1920 where she became one of Greece's rembetika singers. Singing is haunting, often with vocal choruses echoing the lead vocal and instrumentation includes violin, oud, kanaun and other instruments. Sound quality is superb, most tracks taken from original metal masters and 40 page booklet gives extensive background information, notes on the performers and photos of most of them as well as lyric transcripts in Turkish and English. (FS)

 
MISCELLANEOUS VARIOUS ARTISTS Trikont 326 Stranded In The USA - Early Songs Of Emigration $18.98
26 tracks, very highly recommended
Back in stock at a lower price. Beautifully compiled collection of recordings of ethnic music made between 1928 and 1959 on the subject of emigration to America and the immigrant experience here. Includes Irish, Serbo-Croation, Trinidadian, Polish, Jewish, German, Italian, Greek, Puerto Rican, Ukrainian, Finnish, Austrian music and more. Sound is excellent and the set includes two 28 page illustrations booklets with extensive notes in English and German including background essays and annotation for all the tracks and German and English lyric transcripts. (FS)

 
MEXICO VARIOUS ARTISTS Trikont 362 Mexican Boleros, Songs Of Heartbreaking, Passion & Pain $18.98
20 tracks, 62 mins, highly recommended
The Mexican Bolero was a sensation throughout Latin America and up into Northern America (to a certain degree) for about 30 years, starting around the late 1920s. Actually I'm not really telling the truth there; there is an actual known date when the Bolero craze started: August 19th 1927, the date when Guty Cardenas played his Nunca for the "This Is My Country" Mexico song contest. The innovative Cardenas wowed all in attendance with his passionate and daring new composition, and by the next day record companies were recording it using some of the top Opera stars of the day like Carlos Meija and Margarita Cueto. The classic Bolero is nothing if not melodramatic, as heard in songs like Vete de Mi (Leave Me Alone) with the lines "I, who have spent my whole life fighting evil, have arms that are too exhausted/ No longer can I hold you to me. Therefore leave me alone." This collection cherry-picks 30 years of classic recordings to provide 20 tracks worth of fantastic performances by greats like Fernando Rosas, Lupita Palomera, Pedro Vargus, Hermanas Aguila, Agustin Lara, Pedro Infante, etc. (JM)

 
JAMAICA VARIOUS ARTISTS Trojan TJDDD 313 Dip & Fall Back - Classic Jamaican Mento $22.98
Two CDs, 35 tracks, 120 mins, highly recommended
Not a new release but not listed before. This is a wonderful reissue of recordings made between 1955 and 1967 featuring Jamaican mento music. Mento is a dance style that like much Caribbean music draws on both African and European influences. It has some similarities to Trinidadian calypso but is a distinctly Jamaican musical form. The songs, like calypso, deal with topical events, philosophical observations and, of course, the joys and tribulations of love. Instrumental accompaniments are by small groups featuring instrumentation which includes fife, banjo, guitar, maracas, rumba box (a form of bass thumb piano), violin, bamboo clarinet and more. There are some wonderful singers here including Count Lasher, Lord Lebby, Lord Power, Chin's Calypso Quartet, King Bravo, Lord Jellicoe and others. With song titles like Dr. Kinsey Report/ Strip Tease/ Talking Parrot/ Cinemascope/ Wrong Impressions Of A Soldier/ Referendum Calypso/ Haile Selassie/ Zombie Jamboree/ Hooliganism and The Obeah Man you know you're in for a treat. Marie Bryant's deightful Little Boy was covered by U.S. R&B duo Mickey & Sylvia as Mommy Out De Light. Sound quality is as good as can be expected considering that many tracks were recorded in makeshift studios and fold-out booklet has informative notes by Jeremy Collingwood. (FS)

 
JAMAICA VARIOUS ARTISTS Trojan 2700584 The Trojan Calypso Collection $19.98
Two CDs, 40 tracks, 115 mins, highly recommended
A condensed version of the out of print three CD box issued about ten years ago - "The Trojan Calypso Box." A delightful collection of Trinidadian calypso, its Jamican cousin mento along with some ska - all from the 50s and 60s. Includes sides by Count Lasher, Chalie Binger & His Quartet, Tommy McCook & The Supersonics (two tracks from this legendary Jamaican instrumental group including an amazing ska version of Get Me To The Church On Time), Lord Spoon & David (wonderful music on the cusp of mento and ska), Phyllis Dillon, Marva Moore & Gaysters, Lord Kitchener, Nora Dean, Lord Creator, LOrd CRisto (the fabulous Dumb Boy And The Parrot), Mighty Sparrow, Mister Calypson (a tribute to Muhammad Ali), LOrd Tanamo, Lord INvader and others. Great music but notes in booklet are unreadably small. (FS)

 
CAJUN LAWRENCE WALKER Swallow 6221 The Essential Collection of Lawrence Walker $15.98
22 tracks, very highly recommended Lawrence Walker, born in 1907 in Scott, La., was one of the greatest singers and accordianists in the early combo style, enjoying great popularity in the 1930s. He retired in the heyday of the stringbands, to come back strong in the 50s & 60s. With his smooth, powerful accordian style and original songs, he packed the dancehalls until his death in 1968. This great collection features some of his best and most popular waltzes and two-steps recorded for several labels between 1951 and 1962 in the company of his great band The Wandering Aces, often featuring the twin fiddles of Lionel Leloux and Dick Richard and some great steel guitar. The earlier Khoury's and Lyric sides sound a bit rough - a combination of primitive recording conditions and worn 78s but the beauty and power of Lawrence's music comes through loud and clear. (FS)

 

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