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Los Jardineros ->
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PUERTO RICO LOS JARDINEROS Yazoo 7918 The Best Of Los Jardineros $17.98
23 tracks, 70 min., highly recommended
Although Los Jardineros (named after a series of record stars called "El Jardin del Arte" or The Garden of Art) recorded more than 100 songs between 1929 and 1932 (the period covered by this collection), their original 78s are harder to find than an honest man. This legendary Puerto Rican string band also recorded as Sexteto Okeh, Grupo Indiano, and Los Bohemios Puertorriquenos, but no matter what they were called their musicianship was as extraordinary as their music is delightful. Yazoo has included a 36 page 5' by 7" booklet with notes in English and Spanish (and lyrics in both languages too) and rare photos. Songs include Novio Esplendido (Splendid Boyfriend), Cafe Colao (Strained Coffee), Emma, Jala La Cadena (Pull The Toilet Chain), Endemoniao (Possessed By The Devil), Ecos del Bosque (Woodland Echoes), and many others. Wonderful. (JC)

JAMAICA BOB MARLEY DBK Works 117 Stop That Train $15.98
11 tracks, 46 min., highly recommended
Marley waxed his earliest work for producer Clement "Sir Coxsone" Dodd for his famed Studio One label, and Island Records issued his later and most popular recordings. But in between Bob (along with Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh) worked for producer Lee "Scratch" Perry, where, along with the rhythm section from The Upsetters (Perry's extraordinary house band), the Barrett Brothers, he made what are arguably his most creative and important sides. This release--the first of several from this label -- collects sides cut for Perry between 1969-71, including the first recordings with Tosh on lead vocals (Stop That Train and a Jesus-less version of Go Tell It On The Mountain), the exceptionally cool Melow Mood, and a few songs which Marley re-recorded on his well-known Island albums (Natural Mystic, Keep On Moving, Don't Rock My Boat, and others). Booklet notes are clear, well-written and informative, if all too brief. (JC)

JAMAICA BOB MARLEY DBK Works 120 No Sympathy $15.98
16 tracks, 47 min., very highly recommended/essential
Another DBK release of early Lee "Scratch" Perry-produced sides cut at Black Ark Studio between 1969-71, featuring early versions of songs made famous a decade later, including Kaya, and Peter Tosh's No Sympathy, which appeared in re-recorded form on his first solo album, Legalize It. Tosh's other lead vocal performance comes on You Can't Do That To Me, a song he apparently never re-cut. The stripped-down sound is amazingly unified considering some of Marley's songs are built on R&B foundations and one, Chances Are, takes doo wop as a jumping off point. This is a wonderful set from one of the greatest singer-songwriters of the 20th century. There, I said it. Many of these tracks were originally issued on Trojan in the early '70s when Perry sold out Marley and made a deal with that label behind Marley's back. Not many musicians can seem so unrelentingly political one moment and then toss off a love song of the caliber of the lilting There She Goes." Do yourself a favor. (JC)

JAMAICA BOB MARLEY DBK Works 122 400 Years $15.98
16 tracks, 46 min., essential
The third and final DBK release of Marley's seminal recordings with producer Lee "Scratch" Perry, recorded between 1968-1972, shortly before Marley signed with Island Records and gained world-wide fame. Recorded with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, many of these tracks would be re-recorded (and popularized) at Island but, arguably, never bettered. Standouts include Soul Shakedown Party, Lively Up Yourself, Trench Town Rock, 400 Years, Small Axe, Fussing And Fighting, Memphis, Duppy Conqueror, Riding High, All In One, and more. Easily some of the most important recordings of the last century and an absolute joy. (JC)

CUBA VARIOUS ARTISTS Amiata 0300 Viva Cuba Libre $10.98
14 tracks, 64 mins, recommended
Includes 64 page CD sized hardbound book with 100 full color photos. This is an excellent collection of Cuban music with some of the most gorgeous packaging that I've seen lately. Classic car buffs must dream of going car shopping in Cuba. 14 artists in all with the likes of (Buena Vista Social Club alum) Ibrahim Ferrer, Afro-Cuban All Stars, Carlos Puebla, Guillermo Portabales, Roberto Sanchez, etc..

TRINIDAD VARIOUS ARTISTS Bear Family BCD 16623 West Indian Rhythm $269.98
A truly incredible production from Bear Family. This 10 CD set features 267 tracks - every single calypso performance recorded by Decca in Trinidad between 1938 and 1940 including 35 unissued masters (one remains "lost") - some of the titles were unissued because the local censors were nervous about some of the commentary on the war. The material includes old calypsos, new calypsos, topical songs, dance music, Shango and Shouter Baptist hymns, carnival chants, stick-fighter songs and more. The topical songs deal with labor riots, the gathering storm that led to World War 2, adulterers, chicken thieves, peeping toms, prostitutes and much more. Among the many well known and obscure artists are Codallo's Top Hatters Orchestra, The Caresser, Atilla The Hun, Joe Coggins, Lord Executor, The Lion, John "Buddy" Williams & His Blue Rhythm Orchestra, The Growler, King Radio, George Cabrall, Lord Invader, Mighty Destroyer and many more. The set includes a 316 page LP sized hardbound book by John Cowley, Don Hill, Dick Spottswood and Lise Winer with full transcriptions of the lyrics, essays with particulars of song topics, exploration of the relationship of calypso to Carnival, biographies of the repertoire, a full discography and over 700 illustrations!

AFRICA-EAST AFRICA VARIOUS ARTISTS Buda 860119 Zanzibara 2: 1965-1975 Golden Years Of Mombasa Taarab $15.98
Haunting and sensuous taarab music from East Africa recorded in Mombasa, the capital city of Kenya, in the 60s and early 70s. Heavily influenced by Arabic music, this features a blend of African, Arabian, Asian and European elements employing instruments like the oud, tashkota (a miniature version of the japanese koto played with typewriter like keys), accordion, electric organ, kanun and more providing a swirling backdrop to the Arabic flavored vocals. Includes 28 page booklet with extenbsive background notes as well as information on the artists, instruments and record labels with lots of photos.

ITALY VARIOUS ARTISTS Global Village 602 L'Appuntamento, Vol. 1 $15.98
14 tracks, 44 mins, recommended
This is a lovely collection of Italian Folk music played and recorded in the early part of the last century by recent Italian immigrants in America, all showcasing the Mandolin. This features a mix of instrumental tracks and some with vocals sung in native tongue. Great performances throughout this disk, though more information on the players and recording circumstances would be nice. The sound quality is a bit rough as the source material seams to be on original 78s or cylinder recordings. That static-y sound tends to give it a character, you know you are listening to music that is close to 100 years old, and the aural representation gives you a feeling of antiquity. (JC)

REGGAE VARIOUS ARTISTS Heartbeat 7826 The Best Of Studio One Collection $36.98
Four CD set of rock steady, reggae and dub produced by the legendary Clement "Coxsone" Dodd at his Studio One studio. The first three CDs features three previously available Heartbeat CDs with a fourth bonus disc of "Rebel Discomixes" featuring Dub versions of songs on the other three discs that were only previously available on the long out of print vinyl editions of the first three albums. The first two discs features 36 classics from the likes of John Holt, Alton Ellis, Sugar Minott, The Gladiators, Larry Marshall, The termites, Carlton & The Shoes, Winston Francis, Lone Ranger, Sound Dimension and others. The third disc is all instrumental featuring tunes that would often provide the background from which dee jays would rap over including sides by Sound Dimension, The Soul Vendors, Brentford Road All Stars, Jackie & The Invaders and more. The final disc of rebel discomixes includes John Holt & Dennis Alcapone, Carlton & The Shoes and Dennis Alcapone, Tommy McCook & The Brentford Road Disco Set and others.

JAMAICA VARIOUS ARTISTS Hip-O 069 495-2 The Harder They Come - Deluxe Edition $29.98
2 CDs, 30 tracks, 97 mins, essential
This is certainly THE definitive Reggae collection and easily one of the best soundtracks of the rock era. Island / Hip-o, two stellar labels give this the absolute "deluxe Edition," with beautiful packaging, wonderful sound and, in addition to that, they lay a full second disk of Reggae classics by the likes of Desmond Dekker & The Aces, Jimmy Cliff, Ethiopians, The Maytals, etc. Any self respecting music fan should own some version of this album and this edition is the best that I have seen. Amazing that they could improve on a record that already seemed perfect. (JM)

REGGAE VARIOUS ARTISTS Trojan 80499 Trojan Reggae Rarities $21.98
50 tracks, 145 minutes, recommended
The people at Trojan records really did a great job rounding up the most desirable "rare" tracks that they had in the vaults. This is the 50th box set that the label has put out, so they wanted to do something special. The concept is simple: they had fans go to their website and submit tracks that they would most like to hear. Out of the initial top 150, the whittled it down to 50 highly desirable cuts, spread out over 3 CDs. Disc one "Vintage Revive" features tracks from 1966 - 1969, disk two "Superbad Sounds" covers 1969 - 1973 and disk three is "UK Rarities" from 1970-1978. Obviously there are a ton of wonderful tracks on this and I'm especially fond of disc one and cuts like The Spanishtonians Suffer Me Not, The Tartans Coming On Strong, Jo Jo Bennett & The Fugitives The Lecture, Delroy Wilson Good To Me, etc. Sure there are still a couple duds on here, Greyhound doing Moon River isn't exactly a rare track that I was clamoring for, but hey, someone must have been searching for it. Informative notes on each CD and usual attractive, if not altogether functional, Trojan packaging. (JM)


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