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NEWSLETTER #141
Ethnic & World Music
Joe Bataan ->
Various Artists
 

 

   

NEW BOOK

 
AFRICA-SOUTH AFRICA SOWETO BLUES Jazz, Popular Music & Politics In South Africa by Gwen Ansell ● CD $16.98
Paperback, 350 pages, counts as four CDS for shipping
This covers a massive subject, musically, historically, and politically, and the author does it with love and in great detail. "Soweto Blues offers a musical history of South Africa from the earliest years of colonial settlement to liberation and beyond - covering everything from traditional and choral music to the contemporary pop phenomenon of kwaito (township house music)," and features an introduction by Abdullah Ibrahim and narrative sources from an impressive roster of African Musicians like Frank Leepa, Hugh Masekela, and dozens more. (JM)

 

NEW COMPACT DISCS

 
EMusica has purchased the Fania label of classic salsa and other Latin records and promises to release the entire catalogue as CDs with better sound, more notes, and a lower price than earlier CD reissues. Here is a selection of the best of the early re-releases.

 

LATIN JOE BATAAN Fania 130 001 Riot ● CD $14.98
 9 tracks, 40 minutes, essential
Born Bataan Nitollano in Spanish Harlem in 1942 to a Filipino father and an African-American mother, Joe Bataan began his musical career in fifties doo-wop groups and has been singing ever since. He is best known for his classic Latin soul recordings of the 1960's, which mixed Latin, rhythm and blues, and jazz influences (the songs were usually sung in English). This 1968 album (his third for Fania) is a dance classic and features the title song, It's A Good Feeling (Riot), a seven minute, Smokey Robinson-inspired vamp that was the band's show tune.(JV)

 
 
LATIN WILLIE COLON Fania 130 029 El Malo ● CD $14.98
8 tracks, 30 minutes, essential
The versatile Bronx born Willie Colon has combined a diverse musical career as trombonist, arranger, and bandleader with political service as a community activist. This recipient of numerous Grammy nominations and gold and platinum records ironically began his salsa recording days with a bad boy image exemplified by this 1967 album, his first for Fania (and which features great vocals from Hector Lavoe). (JV)

 
LATIN CELIA CRUZ & JOHNNY PACHECO Fania 130 003 Celia & Johnny ● CD $14.98
10 tracks, 46 minutes, essential
The Queen of Salsa was born in Cuba in 1925. She sang and recorded extensively there with Sonora Matancera, but left Cuba to come to the United States in 1960, where she continued her career. Her biggest success came with this gold record, made for Vaya (a Fania subsidiary) with legendary producer Johnny Pacheco in 1974. The album broke her into the salsa market and worldwide fame which continued until her death in 2003. (JV)

 
LATIN CELIA CRUZ & TITO PUENTE Fania 130 004 Cuba Y Puerto Rico Son ● CD $14.98
12 tracks, 36 minutes, essential
This 1966 classic, originally released on the Tico label, was the first recording of what became a partnership of two musical giants of salsa. Recorded in a time of transition between the mambo years of the 1950's and the salsa years of the 1970's, this album was not a hit, but deserved to be, combining as it does first rate musicianship from Tito's band, wonderful arrangements from Jose Madera, and, of course, Celia's stunning and versatile vocals.(JV)

 
LATIN CHEO FELICIANO Fania 130 006 Cheo ● CD $14.98
10 tracks, 37 minutes, highly recommended
Born in Puerto Rico in 1935, Cheo Feliciano moved to New York City in the early 1950's to break into the latin music business as a singer. Starting as a bandboy with the Tito Rodriguez Orchestra, he went on to play as a percussionist with several bands before getting a job as a vocalist with the Joe Cuba band, where he sang lead on a number of that group's hits of the 1960's. He left music for several years at the end of the sixties, only to come roaring back with this smash 1976 Vaya release featuring the big hit Anacaona. He is backed by an allstar band including pianist Larry Harlow, bassist Bobby Valentin, and vibist Louie Ramirez).(JV)

   
LATIN HECTOR LAVOE Fania 130 008 La Voz ● CD $14.98
8 tracks, 33 minutes, essential
If you call yourself the Voice, you have to be able to back it up and Hector Lavoe could. The subject of rumored imminent J-Lo produced biopic, the Puerto Rican born (1946) Lavoe made his name as vocalist with the band of salsa pioneer trombonist/bandleader Willie Colon in the late sixties and early seventies. When Colon stopped touring in 1974, Lavoe inherited the band and responded with this classic 1975 gold album. (JV)

 
LATIN ISMAEL MIRANDA Fania 130 009 Asi Se Compone Un Son ● CD $14.98
10 tracks, 50 minutes, highly recommended
Puerto Rican born Ismael Miranda is a champion of what has come to be called salsa vieja (old salsa). He started singing in bands at the age of 11 and cut his first album as a teenager with Joey Pastrana's band in 1967. He went on to sing with Larry Harlow's band and with the Fania Allstars before forming his own band and cutting this album, which was a worldwide hit in 1973. This was only the beginning of a long and successful recording career. (JV)

 
LATIN JOHNNY PACHECO Fania 130 012 El Maestro ● CD $14.98
10 tracks, 48 minutes, essential
Multitalented producer, composer, and bandleader Johnny Pacheco is one of the most influential figures in Latin music. He has nine Grammy nominations and ten gold records and was the creative center of Fania Records. In addition to producing many Fania albums, he also cut albums of his own as a bandleader, including this 1975 Grammy-nominated, latin dance classic featuring the vocals of Hector Casanova. (JV)

 
LATIN CHARLIE PALMIERI Fania 130 005 El Gigante Del Tectado ● CD $14.98
7 tracks, 37 minutes, highly recommended
New York born (1927) of Puerto Rican extraction, pianist Charlie Palmieri (along with younger Eddie) was a major force in the development of salsa music in New York City in the 1960's and 1970's. One of the leading keyboard players in the latin music of his day, he was influenced both by Cuban music and American jazz. He played with and directed the bands of numerous latin music leaders and also for a while directed the Jack Paar Show orchestra. This classic 1972 salsa album, originally released on the Allegre label, features the legendary trumpet player Alfredo Chocolate Armenteros. Palmieri died in 1988, just before a planed world tour with conguero Mongo Santamaria. (JV)

 
LATIN EDDIE PALMIERI Fania 130 007 Vamanos Pa'l Monte ● CD $14.98
6 tracks, 34 minutes, highly recommended
Eight time Grammy winner Eddie Palmieri was born in the Bronx of Puerto Rican parentage in 1936. Like his older brother Charlie, he became a leading latin pianist. Starting in 1955, he worked for a series of bands before forming his own group, La Perfecta, from 1961 to 1969. In the 1970's he recorded a variety of political and fusion albums, including this excellent 1976 set where he plays Fender Roades piano and brother Charlie is on organ.(JV

 
LATIN BOBBY VALENTIN Fania 130 002 El Rey Del Bajo ● CD $14.98
10 tracks, 43 minutes, highly recommended Born in Puerto Rico in 1941, Bobby Valentin moved to New York in the late fifties to work with some of the leading Latin bands of the day. Also adept at several brass instruments, his main fame was as "King of the Bass" in salsa music. After forming his own band in 1965, Valentin recorded for Fania between 1968 and 1974, capping his run with them with this classic album, featuring lead vocals from future stars Frankie Hernandez and Marvin Santiago. He is still quite active musically today. (JV)

 
AFRICA-ZIMBABWE THE GREEN ARROWS Alula 2001 Analog Africa No. 1 - 4-Track Recording Session ● CD $15.98
First in a series devoted to the vital Zimbwean music scene of the 1970s. This one features 20 tracks recorded between 1974 and 1979 by one of the most popular and influential bands of the era featuring the powerful lead vocals of Zexie Manatsa and the great guitar playing of his brother Stanley. It includes their big hit Musango Mune Hangaiawa which topped the Zimbabwean charts for longer than any other record. CD comes with copiously illustarted 24 page booklet.

 
AFRICA-ZANZIBAR IKHWANI SAFAA MUSICAL CLUB Buda 860118 Zanzibara 1 ● CD $15.98
8 tracks, 68 mins., recommended
This is one weird and unlikely CD, presenting `taarab', an orchestral music that developed in Zanzibar in the early 20th century, combining Swahili traditions with strong Egyptian influence. The large orchestral sound blends oud, qanun, accordion, violins, guitar, keyboard, percussion and lush vocals. The recording was done in 2004-5 in Zanzibar and Dubai, while the compositions span generations and present wonderfully unexpected cultural juxtapositions, reminding us that Zanzibar was a real crossroads a century back. Cheo Chako morphs from a European-sounding waltztime to a North African pop groove to a sweet love song strongly influenced by modern Indian vocal style. You'd swear there's even the odd tip of the hat to Argentine tango in places. But all together it adds up to a joyful, sinewy amalgam of styles, and worlds different from East African pop music. (DC)

 
AFRICA-ZIMBABWE THOMAS MAPFUMO DBK Works 522 Spirits To Bite The Ears ● CD $15.98
17 tracks, 78 mins., recommended
This is subtitled The Singles Collection 1977-1986 and is a rerelease of the 1996 import CD of that name with 16 of the 17 tracks in scrambled order. Mapfumo fans will be familiar with his edgy agit-prop lyrics (even if they are in Shona) that helped change the political future of Zimbabwe, and his grooves that in these early recordings resonate strongly with the reggae explosion in Jamaica. Newcomers to Mapfumo's music will be swept up in his passion and the way he morphed traditional mbira thumb-piano tradition into modern guitar-driven grooves. And while most of Mapfumo's songs were political in this era, here we get some love songs for balance, including Tombi Wachena, a happy retro Afropop song, and the East African rumba-flavored Madhebhura. A rich collection of mostly hard-to-find songs. (DC)

 
CAJUN JOE EL SONNIER & FRIENDS Music De Joel 1984 The L.A. Sessions ● CD $15.98
2001 recordings by this Cajun legend joined by an all star cast of guests including Steve Cropper, Albert Lee, Bonnie Bramlett, Johnny Gimble, Garth Hudson, James Burton and others. Includes Cajun Born/ Come On Joe/ Say You Love Me/ Knock-Knock-Knock, etc.

 
PERU YMA SUMAC ASV CDAJA 5609 The Sun Virgin ● CD $11.98
27 tracks, 77 min., recommended
How does a nice Peruvian girl become an Incan princess and a mysterious, exotic musical sensation? Capitol Records marketing department would have it so. (Rumors that her real name is Amy Camus (Yma Sumac backwards!) and that she's from Brooklyn are apparently untrue. Apparently. This collection aims to raise Sumac from oddball curiosity with a voice like a theremin to folk artist worthy of respect, if not admiration. And as difficult to believe as it may be, its aim is true, at least, sort of. On traditional sounding numbers (albeit backed by popular orchestras of the day) such as Monos, Wayra, Sumac uses her operatic abilities with restraint and subtlety, which makes all the difference. Many of the better songs were drawn from her "Mambo" album, and many credit songwriter and bandleader Moises Vivanco--who married Sumac in 1942. Her legendary four-octave vocal range allows her to hit notes that can be heard only by young dogs and Homeland Security microphones. And she is credited by some with having hit the highest note on record by a female voice on Chuncho (included here), which may or may not be a selling point. All in all, these original mono recordings from 1943-54 are not only better than one who only knows Xtabay might expect, they have a certain charm. (JC)

 
LATIN VARIOUS ARTISTS ASV CDAJA 5625 Mambo Jambo ● CD $11.98
26 tracks, 76 min., highly recommended/essential
Is it possible to listen to the opening (title) cut by Perez Prado and his Orchestra and not feel joy? No wonder it ignited the mambo craze that entranced Europe and America--not bad for a music born in Cuba and schooled in New York City. Combining Latin and African rhythms with American swing, mambo was malleable, easily reflective of each performer's personality. So while Billy May's Fat Man Mambo may sound a bit more "sophisticated," for lack of a better word, it is no less enervating than Perez Prado's famous Mambo #5 or Humberto Morales' Mambo De La Selva or Jungle Mambo. And as the 1950s wore on, everyone jumped in the pool, including unlikely converts such as Rosemary Clooney, whose accent on the surprisingly listenable Mambo Italiano is reminiscent of Chico Marx; and Perry Como, whose Papa Loves Mambo is better than just retro-cool, whatever that is. More great moments come from Machito (Mambo, Part 1), Noro Morales (St. Louis Blues Mambo), Tito Puente (Lare Lare), Luis Arcaraz (Mambo En Trompeta), Ken Mackintosh (Tango Mambo), Roberto Inglez (Maria Cristina), and others. The sound transfer from 78 rpm disc and subsequent "audio restoration" was admirably done. Just cool music. (JC)

 
HAWAII VARIOUS ARTISTS Cord 54000 Legends Of The Ukulele Hawaiian Masters ● CD $15.98
22 tracks, 62 mins., good
Compiled by a Hawaiian radio character named Aloha Joe, this is a quirky rather than comprehensive stroll through the breadth of ukulele styles popular over the past 50 years. Dates are not provided for all tracks but most were recorded in the 60s and 70s and range from the sweet and simple (Herb Ohta, Sr.'s Song For Anna) to the utterly overproduced (Mikel Okouchi's Gypsy Ukulele). There are some truly odd choices, given the countless uke tracks available. Stars & Stripes Forever and Granada are at least understandable, but why Ryan Gonzalez's Dueling Banjos? Sweet moments include Nedward and Keoki Kaapana's swinging Honeysuckle Rose and Ken Emerson's caffeinated Slack Key Uku. And even if the CD lacks a unifying concept, the well-designed booklet makes for good reading. (DC)

 
HAWAII VARIOUS ARTISTS Cord International 79000 Legends Of The Hawaiian Steel Guitar - Past, Present & ● CD $15.98
A collection featuring 20 Hawaiian steel guitar masters from the 20s to the present day including David Burrows, Mike Hanapi, Sol Hoopi'i, Jules Ah See, Benjamin "Benny" Rogers, jerry Byrd, Billy Hew Len, Duke Kaleiolani Ching, Alan Akaka, Bobby Ingano, Bob Brozman, Greg Sardinha and others. Most of the tracks are drawn from albums previously issued by Cord International. Includes 8 page booklet with notes on all the performances and some great photos of vintage instruments.

 
AFRICA-SOUTH AFRICA VARIOUS ARTISTS Documents 221900 African Vibrations ● CD $25.98
Four CD set in book format featuring music recorded for the South African Broadcasting Corporation between 1959 and 1994. These are drawn from the extensive 10 CD set of double CDs on the Eagle label (now out of print) and this set concentratest from five of the major tribes - The Zulu, Venda, South Sotho, Venda, Xhosa and Swazi. The music ranges from traditional tribal to more contemporary sounds. As a bonus (?!) each disc ends with a cut from the "Ambient Africa" album which features some of the original recordings remixed and overdubbed. Includes 24 page illustrated booklet with general notes in English, French, German and Spanish but no information on the performers or the performances.

 
MISCELLANEOUS VARIOUS ARTISTS Documents 222746 Gypsy Music ● CD $25.98
Four CD set in book format. A fine collection of gypsy music from HUngary, Transylvania, Greece, Albania, Serbia, Turkey and other countries. Material ranges from unaccomanied singing to gyspy orchestras. Includes 28 page illustarated booklet with notes in English, French, German & Spanish.

 
TURKEY VARIOUS ARTISTS Metro 7069 A Night In Istanbul ● CD $14.98
Two CD set with 27 tracks featuring contemporary Turkish music. The music is strongly rooted in traditional sounds and instruments but sometimes employs contemporary beats and electronics.

 
HAWAII VARIOUS ARTISTS Paris Jazz Corner 983 643-5 Paris, Plages d'Hawaii ● CD $15.98
Delightful collection of Hawiian guitar music recorded in Paris between 1928 and 1939 by French musicians. Much of the music is not strictly Hawaiian music but is French chansons and cafe music with steel guitar accompaniments. There are even a couple of classical piece played on Hawaiian guitar! Set has cover art by R. Crumb and a 24 page booklet with extensive notes in French (plus one page in English!) plus photos, label shots and sheet music covers.

 
CUBA VARIOUS ARTISTS Smithsonian Folkways 40434 Havana & Matnzas, Cuba, Ca. 1957 - Bata, Bembe & Palo ● CD $15.98
28 tracks, 77 mins., good
This is a scholarly compilation with a rather small target audience, collecting important field recordings made by Lydia Cabrera and Josefina tarafa in Cuba around 1957. Rather than the Cuban popular song usually presented in compilations, these are work songs, praise songs, and drum-driven ritual pieces from the undiluted Afro-Caribbean slave era traditions and mostly in the original Yoruba and other African languages, collected in both the remote town of Matanzas and in Havana. As one would expect, the Smithsonian booklet is jammed with historical background and fascinating detail, while the music is hypnotic and other-worldly, coming across with humanity and immediacy across half a century.(DC)

 
LATIN VARIOUS ARTISTS Take Two 507 Latin Sounds Of The Past-Original Recordings, 1927-1941 ● CD $27.98
2 CD set, 40 tracks, 118 mins., highly recommended
What a flat-out treat this is! Two CDs packed with the best early Latin songs you've ever heard (ranging from Mexican to Brazilian), including practically every solid gold hit from Perfidia to Green Eyes to The Peanut Vendor to Frenesi. There are a fair number of stars represented here, from Carmen Miranda's vocal on Mama Eu Quero to Xavier Cugat's famous Isle of Capri and Rumba Blanca from the Lecuona Cuban Boys. Plenty of other joys are to be found in the less-common sides like Quiereme Mucho by the Victor Cuban Orchestra. You can almost see the romantic 1930s movie nightclub scene at it rolls along. And while mostly everything is presented straight-faced, there are a few novelty moments, including the Havana Casino Orchestra's wacky Marianna with its inevitable rhyming of Havana and banana. The sound quality is a little uneven, but mostly clear enough to enjoy everything from the congas to the horns to the soaring strings. Fun from start to finish, with excellent liner notes. (DC)

 
BALKANS VARIOUS ARTISTS Topic TSCD 928 Blowers From the Balkans - Classic Historica Recordings ● CD $16.98
25 tracks, 78 mins., good
Trying to cram a comprehensive survey of Balkan wind styles on a single CD would be impossible, but this CD covers a reasonably wide array of regional and cultural styles, providing lots of liner notes for background and reference. The program is divided up into "Romanian style" music (including Klezmer bands masquerading as Greeks), peasant music, Greek clarinet music, and Ottoman-Greek caf‚ music, with some explanation about how some of these styles overlap and affect each other. Unfortunately the sources of some of the earliest tracks (as early as 1906 and mostly no later than the 30s) are marginal at best, making it difficult to hear the delicate flute and pipe playing. Still there's some phenomenal playing tucked away here, especially on the tracks featuring solo nai, Albania fyell flute and panpipes. (DC)

 

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