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Bulletin - November/ December 2009
Ethnic & World Music
Blind  Blake ->
Various Artists




28 tracks, recommended
No, not the pre-war blues singer and guitarist - this is the Bahamian calypso singer Alphonso Blake Higgs aka Blind Blake. Blake started his recording career in 1935 recording a controversial calypso Love, Love Alone about the love affair between King Edward VIII and Mrs. Wallis Simpson which is included here in a version from the early 50s. Blake and his group The Royal Victoria Hotel Calypsos were popular Bahaman performers and performed regularly until Blake's death in 1985. The recordings here were made in the early 50s and issued in the USA on the obscure Art label. Blake is accompanied by guitars, maracas, bass fiddle and occasional trumpet. Blake's music was a blend of traditional Island songs, more recent topical calypsos along with American blues, jazz and pop songs. Songs include J.P. Morgan/ Never Interfere With Man And Wife/ Run Come See Jerusalem/ Delia Gone/ Lord Got Tomatoes/ Go Down Emmanuel Road/ Foolish Frog/ MOnkey Song, etc. Blake was not the most exciting or original calypso performer but his music is inevitably engaging and entertaining. (FS)

CAJUN VIN BRUCE Mardi Gras 1105 Cajun Legend $16.98
20 tracks, 66 min., very highly recommended
The deep-voiced Ervin Bruce began his recording career in 1951 when he signed to Columbia Records, where he stayed until 1956 and where he became one of the earliest Cajun artists to gain national exposure. His latest album seems accurately titled and every track here harkens back to earlier times. The instrumentation is simple and as traditional as Bruce's aesthetic, with the exception of a pedal steel guitar sliding in and out occasionally to remind fans that Bruce used to play at the Grand Ole Opry and is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. He knew Hank Williams too. Fans of true traditional Cajun music need look no farther. Tracks include Les Cadjins Du Bayou/ Palmetto Waltz/ Wrong Road Of Love/ La Valse De La Belle Riviere/ Cest Malheureux/ Le Delaisse, and many others. (JC)

CAJUN JOHNNY JANOT Swallow 6170 I'm Proud To Be Cajun - The Essential Collection $15.98
19 tracks, 50 min., recommended
Janot made a living on the fringes of the music business for nearly 30 years before his death in 1984, moving from from country to rockabilly to Cajun. Swallow released his first Cajun LP in 1983 (LP 5060), "Expose Yourself To Cajun Music And Johnny Janot," featuring a rain-coat clad flasher on the cover. The posthumous "Cajuns Are Tuff!" followed in 1991. This album collects the best of his Cajun sides, including Gabriel And Madeline/ Kaplan Waltz/ Jolie Blonde/ Couche Couche And Ky-Yay/ We Did It To One Another, and I Went Dancing Last Night, fine cuts all, especially that last one. The talking-Cajun type cuts (I'm Proud To Be A Cajun/ Cajun True Or False {in English}, and Cajun Paradise {not in English}) make strong medicine and do not reward repeated spins. The humorous My Dog Sex (which could stand a comma) is not so much a song as a joke and not an entirely funny one. So pick this up for the more traditional Cajun sides that Janot rightly considered his best work. (JC)

Reissue of legendary Zimbabwean artist Thomas Mapfumo originally issued at the height of the Rhodesian war in 1976. The only album featuring The Acid Band it was the first full length release of the Mapfumo coined musical genre "Chimurenga" meaning "struggle"

CAJUN JIMMY C. NEWMAN Jasmine 488 The Original Cry, Cry Darling - Early Cajun Recordings $15.98
28 tracks, 77 min., very highly recommended
Collects every record cut by Newman for the Fais-Do-Do, Feature, Modern, and Khoury's labels, the pre-Dot stuff recorded in the 1940s-50s for Jay D. Miller, his earliest work. In fact, this release includes Newman's first recordings, as a member (rhythm guitarist) of Chuck Guillory's Rhythm Boys (Tolan Waltz/ Teiyut Two Step/ Chuck's Waltz, and Chere Petite, which Newman wrote and sings on, his earliest vocal performance on disc) as well as the record released by Jimmy Durbin & The Country Boys (Drunkard's Waltz and Fais Do Do Two-Step), which features Newman. Also included are the mega-rare H-Brown Shuffle, a charming advertising song (the first under Newman's own name), presumably in "payment" for the trailer Newman's band rode in, and Wondering. The last four cuts are unreleased Feature tracks. A model release of the earliest Cajun days of the future Grand Ole Opry star, who has dozens of country hits. Newman was a first-class balladeer whose emotive vocals here should find broad appeal to fans of early country music as well as those interested in the development of Cajun music. And of course, it's a must-have for Newman fans. Informative booklet notes too. (JC)

CUBA EDDIE PALMIERI Fania 130 159-2 Superimposition $11.98
6 tracks, 36 mins, highly recommended
Eddie Palmieri is one of the leading Latin Jazz pianists, despite his never having managed a breakthrough into the American mainstream. His influences are Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk, and McCoy Tyner, which not surprising given his willingness to experiment with fusions of Latin and non-Latin music. Originally released in 1971, Superimposition finds Palmieri mixing extended versions of well known dance numbers with original compositions, with the pure Jazz elements more obvious than ever. This is a classic CD that is revered among Latin musicians; Eddie and his band, La Perfecta, smoke from beginning to end. The album maybe short (and what album wasn't in the early 70's), but the time is well spent. (GMC)

CUBA TITO PUENTE Fania 130 430-2 The Complete 78s, Vol. 3 $19.98
Third volume in the series of re-issues documenting Latin Jazz pioneer Puente's earliest sides as a band leader. The series of songs recorded for the Tico label between 1949 and 1955 shows a different side to the artist than the recordings he made around the same time frame for RCA; while his RCA sides tended toward swing band crossovers, his Tico sides catered strictly to his core audience in Spanish Harlem and consisted of mostly hard mambos with the occasional ballad or bolero thrown in. Consequently, these songs-made for the hardcore faithful, in the manner of Charlie Parker's recordings for Dial or Duke Ellington's recordings for Okeh-show a different aspect of Puente's artistry and are therefore invaluable. Among the musicians that are featured here are Willie Bobo, Mongo Santamaria, and Charlie Palmieri, and vocalist Gilberto Monroig.

CUBA TITO PUENTE Fania 130 480-2 The Complete 78s, Vol. 4 $19.98
The fourth and final volume in this invaluable series documenting the Tico recordings of this Latin jazz giant. Two CDs featuring 36 tracks, probably from 1954/55 period (there is no dating included in the documentation) when Puente's band did not have a lead singer and the majority of tracks are instrumental with occasional vocal by Puente himself or percussionist Willie Bobo. Lots of Puente original here along with Latin standards like Los Tamalitos De Olga (Hot Tamales) and Pare Cachero and Latin renditions of American pop songs like My Funny Valentine and Invitation.

AFRICA-MALI THE RAIL BAND Sterns 3033/4 Belle Epoque 1 - Soundiata $16.98
2 CD, 11 tracks, 100 mins, recommended
The Rail Band is the West African equivalent to Britain's John Mayall's Blues Breakers, i.e. an influential group that served as a proving ground for some soon-to-be big names in their respective country's music scene. That description is only partially accurate, but it does serve a purpose in that Western listeners have something familiar to liken this legendary band to. Formed in 1970, the Rail Band were the first group to combine Afro-Cuban Jazz with traditional Malian music. This seemingly simple action proved to be very popular within Africa and sealed the group's success. The band went through three distinct periods: 1970 to 1972, when Salif Keita (who became a huge star in his own right later) was the lead singer; 1972 to 1976, when Mory Kante was one of the featured vocalists; and 1977 to 1983, when the band went through some turbulence and re-invention. This first of three compilations documenting that decade jumps all over the place, chronologically speaking, but Keita and Kante are both well represented. Musically, the songs can be highly melodic and mesmerizing (Soundiata L'Exil) or somewhat dissonant and complex (Maliyo), but never dull. This music is not for everyone-it might be dynamic enough for some people-but for those who don't mind being transported to another time and place through these hypnotic sounds, then step right on up. (GMC)

AFRICA-MALI THE RAIL BAND Sterns 3039/40 Belle Epoque 2 - Mansa $16.98
The second volume in the trilogy of CDs documenting the Rail Band's first decade contains fewer epics (no 27 minute track here, unlike the previous volume), more of the comforting vocals of Salif Keita (including three more tracks - Rail Band/ Koro Koni and Gansana - from their first LP, "Orchestre Rail Band de Bamako" [1970]), and more representation from the group's other singers. Later, different singers were needed to sing for different audiences; hence, the presence of elderly Malenke singer Djelimandy Sissoko and Bambara singer Magan Ganessy, both of whom are prominently featured here.

AFRICA-SOUTH AFRICA SOUL BROTHERS Gallo 1025 The Best Of Soul Brothers $13.98
20 tracks, 76 mins, recommended
Soul Brothers are one of South Africa's most popular and long lived mbaqanga artists. Formed in 1974 the group has had a number of changes over the years but has always featured the silky quavery lead vocals of David Masanto and the harmony vocals and keyboard work of Moses Ngwenya. There is no information about the dates of the tracks on this "Best Of" collection and as their sound has remained remarkably consistent over the years all you can do is sit back and enjoy it and not worry about details. The Soul Brothers play a style of mbaqanga that is much smoother than most other artists. You might even call it silky but the sound is full of delightful details in the guitar work, while the sax and keyboards provide an interlocked jiving groove that rides comfortably over the firm bass and drum foundation, with some fine riffing in the instrumental parts. Though perhaps not quite as exciting as some of their contemporaries their music is a joy to listen to. (FS)

GREECE VASSILIS TSITSANIS JSP JSPCD 77123 Rembetika 4 : The Postwar Years $19.98
Four CD set, 92 tracks, very highly recommended
The fourth volume from JSP and compiler Charles Howard devoted to that wonderful Greek musical style known as rembetika and the second volume devoted to the great composer and bouzouki player Vassilis Tsitsanis. In spite of his formal education the music of Tsitsanis infused with sensitivity and soul. He composed almost all the songs on the set and provides bouzouki accompaniment and second vocals to such great singers as Efstratios Payioumidzis (better known as "Stratos"), Stellakis Perpiniadhis, Stella Haskil, Sotiria Bellou, Yiorgos Mitsakis and others. In addition to Tsitsanis's stellar bouzouki playing we also hear tracks with guitar, accordion and clarinet. The sound quality is outstanding and the booklets have brief biographical notes, outlines of the songs, a glossary of terms and discographical details. Dusky and smoky as the taverns where it was played, this is timeless music suffused with a profound sense of the joyfulness and the strivings of life. Tsitsanis' musicianship is nothing short of astounding and he plays with both great virtuosity and effortless ease. The whole gamut of human emotion and experience is evoked, playful and flirtatious one minute, yearning and melancholy the next. Though these post war recordings are perhaps not quite as compelling as the pre-war recordings they are consistently superb and this set is indispensible for lovers of Greek music and anyone who wants to explore some truly great music from foreign lands. Previous volumes (JSP 7776, 77105 and 77111 are equally indispensible. (FS/ DP)

JAMAICA VARIOUS ARTISTS Debutante 565 156-2 And This Is A Ska Explosion $14.98
20 tracks, 56 mins, highly recommended
Ska music appears to be making a comeback, especially in England and this compilation is a good way for the uninitiated to hear what the fuss is about. Originally released in 1998 but reissued in 2007, this CD collects the cream of the 60's ska scene: Prince Buster, Duke Reid, Byron Lee & the Dragonaires, Justin Hinds & the Dominoes, and The Skatalites to name a few. Even the lesser known (to non-fans) names - Monty Morris, Roland Alphonso, the Blues Busters (basically this genre's equivalent of Sam & Dave), Shenley Duffus - are more than worthy of your attention. A few included performers aren't really considered "ska"; the The Paragons (represented by the original version of The Tide is High, which was hit covered by Blondie in the 80's) were actually more pop oriented with rocksteady window dressing. But this is a minor quibble, because all of this music way good fun and a rockin' good time. (GMC)

FRANCE VARIOUS ARTISTS Fremeaux & Associes 5263 France: Une Anthologie Des Musiques-Auvergne Et Limousi $24.98
31 track collection of traditional music from the Auvergne and Limousin areas of France. This is one of a series of ten CDs featuring music from various regions of France. Most of these field recordings are from the 70s and 80s though some are earlier including one vocal from 1912 and one as late as 1998. About half the tracks are unaccompanied vocals and the rest are instrumental including performances on fiddle, hurdy gurdy, bagpipes and accordion. The 24 page booklet has extensive notes in French and brief introductory notes in England.

MIDDLE EAST VARIOUS ARTISTS Honest Jon's 039 Open Strings $21.98
2CD, 30 tracks, 129 mins, highly recommended
The latest archival collection from the folks at Honest Jon's consists of pre-war recordings of Middle Eastern music culled from the EMI Hayes vaults. Like HJ's other compilations ("Sprigs of Time," "Give Me Love," "Living is Hard"), "Open Strings" brings to light some compelling and beautiful music that had been lost for far too long. Transferred from the original 78s, this music comes from Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey and much of it appears to be played on violin, oud, and bouzouki. Unfortunately, this collection, unlike previous ones, contains no liner notes or background information on the artists, which is a shame since it would have been interesting to have some historical back story on these recordings. But the lack of info doesn't diminish the sonic majesty of this music, all of which is mournful, haunting, and exuberant, sometimes within the same piece. The "New Responses" of the second disc consists of contemporary interpretations of Middle Eastern music; these modern tracks lack the rough charm of the 78 sides, but do make good use of the influences and produce some very entertaining music, especially Bruce Licher's Mesopotamia, Sir Richard Bishop's Olive Oasis, and Goat, Thorns and Brick by Six Organs of Admittance. There are some people who will no doubt look down upon the modern recordings and wish they hadn't been included, but regardless of your opinion of them, the modern tracks don't take anything away from the 1920's tracks and indeed, help to show how important the discovery of these lost recordings is and how lucky we are to have them back. (GMC)

JEWISH/ YIDDISH/ KLE VARIOUS ARTISTS JSP JSPCD 5201 Cantors, Klezmorim And Crooners, 1905-1953 $19.98
Just arrived. Three CD set with 67 tracks and 72 page illustrated booklet. A varied selection of Yiddish music drawing on the record collection of Sherry Mayrent - the world's largest private collection of Yiddish music. Compiled and annotated by Henry Sapoznik and remastered by Christopher King it features klezmer music, cantorial music, popular singers and more including Naftule Brandwein, Oscar Julius Quartet, MIchael Rosenberg, Cantor David Roitman, Molly Picon, Sam Finkle, Ambrose & His Orchestra, The Feder Sisters, Cantor Joseph Rosenblatt, Kandel's Orchestra, Sholem Aleichem, Art Shryers Yiddish Orchestra, Cantor Isiah Meisels, Sophie Tucker, Moishe Oysher And Florence Weiss, Aaron Lebedeff and many more. 42 tracks have never been reissued before.

THAILLAND VARIOUS ARTISTS Sublime Frequencies 042 Shadow Music Of Thailand $16.98
17 tracks, 45 mins, highly recommended
This is the kind of esoteric collection that certain music fans will absolutely love. Akin to classic Bollywood soundtrack music from the 1960s, "Shadow Music" is Thailand's groovy take on western Rock 'N' Roll. Drawing its biggest influence from instrumental Surf and Hot Rod music in general and the work of the great English instrumental band The Shadows in particular, there is a lot to love about this sub-genre. The key artists playing "Shadow Music" were Pocket Music (shortened to P.M.), The Son of P.M., P.M. 7, Johnny Guitar, and Jupiter, are all here and all delivering fantastic tracks. One thing about this collection that left me wondering was what the song titles were, since they are not in English for the most part, I wonder what kooky names they may have come up with for their instrumental wonders. Fans of "Incredibly Strange Music" and other offbeat movements will definitely enjoy! (JM)

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC VARIOUS ARTISTS World Music Network 1171 The Rough Guide To Merengue $14.98
The Rough Guides have long been an easy way for the beginner to learn about foreign music, and this entry into the series is no exception. Taken as a primer to learn the basics of Merengue music, this CD succeeds; the music is more pop oriented Merengue that's made for the dance floor, but that's an advantage since the dancability makes the music more accessible to the novice. The notes are well researched, giving good background on the music's history; in short, if you're interested in Merengue music, this is a good place to start.


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