NEWSLETTER #132
Ethnic & World Music

Nathan Abshire -> Various Artists

NATHAN ABSHIRE & THE BALFA BROTHERS
AMADOU & MARIAM
DESI ARNAZ & THE MAMBO KINGS
BOB BROZMAN & RENE LACAILLE
JIMMY CLIFF
XAVIER CUGAT
SEKOU "BEMBEYE" DIABATE, DJANKA DIABATE
MIRIAM MAKEBA & THE SKYLARKS
BELTON RICHARD
VARIOUS ARTISTS
 

 
CAJUN NATHAN ABSHIRE & THE BALFA BROTHERS Ace CDCHD 329 Pine Grove Blues/ The Good Times Are Killing Me ● CD $21.98
Back in stock in very limited quantities. Two fantastic LPs on one 24 tracks CD by one of the all time greatest Cajun singers and accordion players. Nathan's music deep and intense with heartfelt vocals and striking accordion playing and was frequently accompanied by some of the best cajun instrumentalists. The first album features recordings made for Swallow between 1966 and 1970 on which he is joined by The Balfa Brothers on fiddle and guitar and an unnamed but very fine steel guitar player. Songs include a superb version of his theme song Pine Grove Blues plus Sur La Courtableau/ I Don't Hurt Anymore/ Le Vlase De Bayou Teche and others. The second 12 selection feature mostly later recordings also with the Balfas and an uncredited steel player (Jay Pelisia?). In addition to Nathan's own vocals there are also vocals by Rodney Balfa, Dewey Balfa and Thomas Langley. Songs include Choupique Two Step/ Nathan's Lafayette Two Step/ Tramp Sur La Rue/ J'Etais Au Balle/ Offshore Blues and others. Remastering is superb and my only complaint is that a release this important deserves better notes. Essential! (FS)

 
AFRICA-MALI AMADOU & MARIAM Circular Moves 7011 Wati ● CD $16.98
The most recent album from this wonderful duo from Mali.

 
CUBA DESI ARNAZ & THE MAMBO KINGS RCA 66031 The Best Of Desi Arnaz & The Mambo Kings ● CD $11.98
16 tracks, 45 minutes, highly recommended Before he (and we) loved Lucy, Desi Arnaz was the mambo king, the flamboyant Cuban bandleader who cashed in on the conga and mambo crazes and carved out starring roles on Broadway, in Hollywood, and on record. His big musical idea was to mix the fire of Machito with the lushness of Kostelanetz (yes, Andre Kostelanetz). The result was creditable Cuban dance music suitable for American tastes. This CD features some of Desi's best sides, cut in 1946 and 1947, just before the second Petrillo recording ban, and featuring some fine vocals from June Harvey and Desi himself. (JV)

 
LA REUNION/ HAWAII BOB BROZMAN & RENE LACAILLE Riverboat TUGCD 1025 Digdig ● CD $17.98
15 tracks, 50 minutes, very highly recommended Brilliantly creative and eclectic, yet never self conscious or contrived. Bob Brozman is a virtuoso guitarist in Hawaiian & slide styles and beyond, and Rene Lacaille is a tremendous accordionist, guitarist, and fine singer from the Indian Ocean island La Reunion who lived in France for many years. Joined here by Danyel Waro from La Reunion and others. In many ways this CD reminds me of the David Grisman Quintet's classic first album on Kaleidescope, with a "Dawgish" sound at times. String band sounds combined with the distinctive Indian Ocean rhythms are prevalent but you'll hear much more here, hints of Country, Western Swing, Zydeco, French chansons, eerie Oriental sounds, inventive rhythms, jazzy improvisations, etc. These musicians play together and know when to keep their egos in check. Even when not in the lead, Lacaille's accordion has a great presence. Brozman is known to completely immerse himself in the entire life and culture of the ethnic traditions he collaborates with, and it shows. Music made from the heart and soul, not the marketing department's calculations. Lay this baby on your "progressive music" friends and blow their minds. Vocals not as good as instrumentals, but solid. (JVI)

 
JAMAICA JIMMY CLIFF Trojan 80416 Many Rivers To Cross - The Best Of Jimmy Cliff ● CD $13.98
25 tracks, 72 mins, highly recommended Great collection of recordings by this reggae legend ranging from early ska sides in the early 60s when he was still a teenager to his classic recordings from the late 60s/ early 70s. It includes the beautiful title song which is deep soul Jamaican style, the catchy Wonderful World, Beautiful People which was his first worldwide hit, the powerful Vietnam (apparently Bob Dylan said this was the best protest song he'd ever heard), You Can Get It If You Really Want which was used on the soundtrack of the must see movie "The Harder They Came" and lots more - mostly produced by Leslie Kong. Several tracks are making their first appearance on CD. It includes an 8 page booklet with extensive notes in hard to read type. (FS)

 
CUBA XAVIER CUGAT Columbia 85341 The Original Latin Dance King ● CD $11.98
26 tracks, 74 minutes, highly recommended A healthy compilation of classic (1940's and 1950's) rumba and mambo tracks from your parents' favorite latin band leader. As the title says, Cugie was the first (and one of the best) of the Latin dance kings. We are only now getting old enough to fully appreciate them. These sides present his finest bands and strongest singers (such as Tito Rodriguez, Miguelito Valdes, and Brooklyn's own Abbe Lane). (JV)

 
AFRICA-GUINEA SEKOU "BEMBEYE" DIABATE, DJANKA DIABATE Dakar Sound 2003149 Samba Gaye ● CD $15.98
Fine album of Guinean pop music recorded in 1997 and featuring legendary Guinean guitarist Sekou "Diamond Fingers" Diabate and his wife Djanka.

 
AFRICA-SOUTH AFRICA MIRIAM MAKEBA & THE SKYLARKS Camden 1002 The Best Of Of Miriam Makeba & The Skylarks ● CD $10.98
Wonderful collection of 18 tracks from 1958 and 1959 featuring the great South African vocalist Miriam Makeba when she was a member of the great vocal group The Skylarks. The group blended jazzy American vocal group styles with South African rhythm and melodies. Several of the tracks feature the great South African pennywhistle player Spokes Mashiyane.

 
CAJUN BELTON RICHARD Swallow 6178 The Older The Wine, The Finer The Taste! ● CD $15.98
New recordings of one of the finest and most popular Cajun singers and accordion players of the 60s and early 70s. UNfortunately a lot of the fire has gone out of Belton's music and although pleasant enough the performances are somewhat bland and pedestrian.

 
CUBA VARIOUS ARTISTS Concord Jazz 5301 Colors Of Latin Jazz - Cubop! ● CD $8.98
11 tracks, 58 minutes, highly recommended Cubop! (always spelled, it seems, with an exclamation point) is the music which arose from the fusion of bebop jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms in the 1940's and is associated with founders like Machito and Dizzy Gillespie. This tasty CD collects tracks from the eighties and nineties in the style as performed by the cream of Concord's ample roster of Latin performers, including Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, and Cal Tjader. (JV)

 
AFRICA-SOUTH AFRICA VARIOUS ARTISTS Earthworks STEW 39 South African Gospel According To Earthworks ● CD $14.98
17 tracks, 68 mins, highly recommended A fine selection of South African gospel music recorded in the 80s and 90s. Though perhaps not quite as compelling as the World Music Network collection reviewed in Newsletter 131 there are some excellent performances here including several by the great acapella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the particularly fine Holy Cross Choir featuring the splendid lead vocals of Florence Mokhethi, a group led by "peoples poet" Mzwakhe Mbuli and others. As always the melodies are captivating, the rich harmonies are spine chilling and the instrumental arrangements beautifully and rhythmically underpin the vocals. (FS)

 
AFRICA-MADAGASCAR VARIOUS ARTISTS Earthworks STEW 49 Tulear Never Sleeps ● CD $14.98
Exciting collection of contemporary traditionally based music from Tulear in South-West Madagascar mostly featuring exhilarating electric guitar based combos performing in a style called Tsapiky.

 
CUBA VARIOUS ARTISTS Empire 39071 Artistas Originales Salsa Cubana ● CD $16.98
18 tracks, 55 minutes, highly recommended Wonderfully diverse survey of classic (although not always well-known) interpreters of Cuban music. All tracks date from the mid-20th century and most were produced by Manuel Mato (to whom this CD is a sort of tribute). Styles and performances range from the "Cuban blues" of Bola de Nieve to the sophisticated piano of Frank Emilio Flynn to the charanga of the Orquesta Sublime to the smooth vocal sounds of Bobby Jimenez, who was known as the Cuban Nat "King" Cole. (JV)

 
HAWAII VARIOUS ARTISTS Harlequin HQCD 182 Steeling Around The World ● CD $16.98
Fascinating collection featuring 26 tracks recorded between 1922 and 1952 featuring artists from aroudn the world putting their own spin on Hawaiian steel guitar music. This collection features recordings from Japan, Australia, Holland, South Africa, France, India and more. Includes 16 page booklet with extensive notes and discography.

 
CUBA VARIOUS ARTISTS Harmless HURTCD 039 Brown Sugar! Latin Freakbeats, Basslines & Boogaloo ● CD $17.98
14 tracks, 56 minutes, highly recommended Another fine collection of latin/black fusion music from New York City in the late sixties (boogaloo) and early seventies (latin funk) before disco watered it all down. This set includes both tracks from older established stars like Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, and Ray Barretto paying tribute to new styles as well as equally fine sides from less well-known young turks, like Joe Cain and Ralph Robles. Dance tunes from times of social and political upheaval. (JV)

 
MISCELLANEOUS VARIOUS ARTISTS Kein Und Aber 23284 Hot Women - Women Singers From the Torrid Regions ● CD $18.98
24 tracks, 69 mins, highly recommended Fabulous collection of vintage recordings of women singers mostly from the 20s and 30s compiled by R. Crumb from his own collection. The 24 tracks includes Louisiana Cajun, Mexican, French Carribean, Chilean, Sicilian, Greek, Algerian, Turkish, East African, Madagascar (an amazing and eerie performance that is hard to describe), Burmese, Hawaiian and more. Superbly remastered by Tony Baldwin and packaged in a digipack including booklet with notes by Crumb along with color illustrations by him of many of the performers. (FS)

 
CARIBBEAN VARIOUS ARTISTS Putumayo 205 Calypso ● CD $15.98
Delightful collection of traditional Calypso and Calypso-influenced music recorded in the 50s and 60s and featuring artists from The Bahamas, Jamaica, Grenada, Trinidad and Haiti. Includes George Symonette, The Jolly Boys, Blind Blake & His Royal Victorians (not to be confused with the country blues singer with the same name), King Sparrow, Lord Beginner, Andre Toussaint, The Percentie Brothers, Delborn Johnson. Includes 32 page booklet with notes and great photos.

 
AFRICA-ZAMBIA VARIOUS ARTISTS Sharp Wood 019 Zambia Roadside - Music From Southern Province ● CD $15.98
15 tracks, 69 minutes, very highly recommended. Great label that has been re-issuing the great Hugh Tracey International Library of African Music recordings takes a tip from Tracey's "Music from the Roadside" series and is now releasing this and other CDs documenting the evolving tradition in southern and eastern Africa. The music is wonderful, vibrant, & rhythmic; diverse and rootsy. People's music often played on homemade instruments including variations on guitar or ukelele, drums, bottles struck with nails, rattles etc. Older musicians play thumb piano & musical bow. Includes a couple old-tradition pieces with women's choir, balafon, thumb piano, and vocal yelps. My favorite is the "Green Mamba" band playing music bursting with joy and life_what I call "galloping zebra music". Great booklet. Released 2003. (JVI)

 
AFRICA-WEST AFRICA VARIOUS ARTISTS Sterns STCD 1094 The Music In My Head 2 ● CD $15.98
12 tracks, 78 minutes, very highly recommended. Equally strong follow-up to 1996 CD. Incredibly soulful Afropop tracks. A delicious blend of Manding vocal, strings, and percussion traditions with Cuban, jazz, and other influences Compilation of classics and unknown gems from West Africa, mostly from the 1970s & `80s + later recordings. The praise singing of Manding griots is a primary influence on Black gospel and soul music, and Manding music is a primary influence on the blues. Classics from before things became homogenized by Paris session musicians. Includes classics by Orchestra Baobab, Youssou N'Dour & Super Etoile de Dakar, Keletigui et ses Tambourinis, Ousmane Kouyate, etc. Informative booklet. Released 2002. (JVI)

 
ARABIA-YEMEN VARIOUS ARTISTS Topic TSCD 920 The Yemen Tihama - Trance & Dance Music From The Red Se ● CD $16.98
15 tracks, 60 minutes, recommended for the adventurous. As the very interesting liner notes say, the ferocious heat on Tihama is matched in intensity by the Tibbal music in these 1982 field recordings. Tihama is across the Red Sea from East Africa; overall sound is African and Arabic, somewhat similar to the more percussive styles of, say, Morocco, but more stark and primitive; yet the musicianship, (esp. drumming) is incredibly skilled. Other instruments typical of desert areas: brilliant, shrill, vibrating reeds and flutes that seem to "fill all the hot desert air" & a few lyres. The "most highly developed drumming in the Arab world" features several varieties of drums (in ensembles w/ other instruments/vocals; and drum-only ensembles) played by outcaste itinerants somewhat analogous to Gypsies. Virtuoso drumming is an integral part of their healing art of appeasing and expelling evil spirits, along with sorcery, magic, fortune telling, and snake charming (check out cover photo of man with like 5 snakes in his mouth!) Like most trance music, spellbinding and hypnotic, not dramatic--changes & progressions are subtle. Music for a variety of ceremonies and rituals, from weddings to parties where intoxicating leaves are chewed to a religious ceremony somewhat analogous to a sundance, where dancers "must achieve an extraordinary physical and mental state in order to endure heroic acts of penance"! (JVI)

 

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