Rough Guide once more exel with their mix of old and new, try these to give you a snapshot of where they are coming from: Joe Arroyo y La Verdad, Radio Cumbia, LA-33, Colombiafrica, Mojarra Electrica and Grupo Saboreo. 15 tracks in all and they all have one vision, dance and party until you drop. Very good.
Formed by Jordanian vocalist Shireen Abu-Khader to celebrate Arabic folklore. Their description on the sleeve notes as a ‘ modern folkloric chamber group’ sums them up well, the music is traditional with new arrangements but keeping the vocals very much to the fore on these Sufi influenced songs. Beautiful.
Oh just listen to ‘Chan Chan’ kick in on CD one and they’ve got you in the palm of their hands, pure magic. Produced by Ry Cooder, from a concert in 1998 as the group made their American debut, even though they were in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. This is very much a moment in time as they never all played together again and sadly members like Ibrahim Ferrer, Rubén González and Company Segundo were soon to pass on. Double CD, 16 tracks, music just doesn’t get any better than this.
Ten years on from the world-wide explosion of interest in the Buena Vista Social Club, it is fascinating to revisit the the first concert that the collective played in the United States and at the prestigous Carnegie Hall in New York to boot. Fortunately World Circuit recorded it for posterity and it does not disappoint. Long-time Buena Vistas in this country will remember the atmosphere at the Jazz cafe gig in London, and the week long fesitval of Cuban music at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. A decade earlier it would have been unthinkable that a bunch of Cuban musicians from the 1950s and beyond could have become a world-wide phenomenon, let alone be allowed to play in the States given political differences pervasive at the time. The concert swept away any such considerations and the music contained within catches the Buena Vistas at their absolute peak with the extended collective in all their glory.
The double CD provides plenty of space for the expanded repertoire of the band to be showcased, and in uptempo numbers such as the classic ‘Mandinga’ and the instrumental ‘Siboney’ with refined piano playing from Ruben Gonzalez we hear them at their absolute zenith. Shifts in tempo abound on ‘Almendra’ while the campesino country style of ‘Orgullecida’ allows the duet between Compay Segundo and Omara Portuondo to shine through. This is a trip through the classic Cuban songbook with songs such as ‘Cuarto de Tula’ that Celina Gonzalez made famous, but here transformed into an eight minute Latin big band number with vocals shared by Ferrer, Pio Leyva and Puntillita. Mid-tempo burners such as ‘De camino a la vereda’ swing like crazy and cha cha cha’s of the calibre of ‘La enganadora’ oscillate between instrumental and vocal passages. Of course the hit numbers are featured and ‘Chan Chan’ is a particularly fine rendition while ‘Quizas Quizas’ conjurs up the magic that Nat King Cole once injected into the song. With a deluxe thirty page booklet, the whole phenomenon is beautifully chronicled with musicians and writers alike providing commentaries. An indispensable slice of timeless nostalgia.
Another tasty Dancing Turtle release with this husband and wife duo from the remote central highland region of New Guinea now exiled in the UK. The journey here was brought about by the dreadful difficulties they faced from the occupying regime of Indonesia including imprisonment for peacefully raising the banned national flag of West Papua. Rooted in the sacred rituals of the Lani Tribe the songs are emotive tales of their journey, of life, of traditions and ensure a legacy for a tribe whose future is of great concern. Folk music from the heart.
Mixed at Joe Gibbs studios by one half of the Mighty Two, Errol Thompson (but devoid of the special effects typical of the Mighty Two dub albums), ‘Dub I’ originally came out on an extremely limited edition LP in Jamaica in 1975. It was briefly released in the UK, albeit in a highly disguised form in the early 1980s, but has remained a collectors must have among dub cognoscenti because of its uncompromising pared-down sound. Pressure Sounds have reproduced the orginal minimalist sleeve with a crystal clear re-mastering, adding five extra dub and instrumental tracks.
Ivan ‘Jimmy’ Radway is something of an elusive figure even in reggae circles and certainly has not been prolific on the production front. However, what he has lacked in sheer quantity, he has more than made up for in the superb quality of the recordings and attention to detail. Some of the finest roots 45s were cut by Radway including ‘Black Cinderella’ by Errol Dunkley and ‘Mother Liza’ by Leroy Smart as well as various DJ cuts to the aforementioned by the likes of Big Youth and I-Roy. The genius of ‘Dub I’ was to bring all these classic riddims together and reproduce them in beautifully crafted and relatively short dub versions. Impressive are dub cuts to ‘Dub is my desire’ (originally Leroy Smart’s ‘Happiness is my desire’) and ‘Big Youth version’ (a dub cut to ‘Cinderella’). Of the extras, the instrumental ‘Tina May’ stands out and offers some nice trombone soloing from Vin Gordon over a heavyweight rhythm as does ‘The great Tommy Mc Cook’ by the legendary Skatalite member. Another winner of a re-issue from the premier UK label championing quality roots recordings.