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NEWSLETTER #144
Ethnic & World Music
Ray Barretto ->
Various Artists
 

 

 

NEW COMPACT DISCS

 
 
CUBA RAY BARRETTO Fania 130 073 Rhythm Of Life $13.98
7 tracks, 38 minutes, highly recommended
Recently departed conguero (conga player) Ray Barretto was for half a century a percussion giant in both jazz and latin music. This mid-career (1982) album was part of Ray's return to latin music and Fania records after several commercially (but not musically) unsuccessful fusion albums for the Atlantic label, so it unsurprisingly combines excellent soloing with great latin rhythm. Throw in the expressive vocals of singer Ray de la Paz and you have a very satisfying mixture. Highlights include Mi Dedicacion, an homage to Ray's father's Puerto Rican homeland. (JV)

 
JEWISH/YIDDISH/KLEZMER EMIL BRUH Global Village 102 Klezmer Violinist And Instrumental Ensemble $15.98
A lovely collection of instrumental klezmer music performed by violinist Emil Bruh with piano and occasional bass percussion accompaniment. There is no booklet with biographical information but the back cover indicates that these recordings were originally made in the 1950s. His playing ranges from sweet and lyrical to energetic and fiery as the mood of the tune dictates - excellent!

 
CUBA WILLIE COLON Fania 130 050 El Juicio $13.98
8 tracks, 39 minutes, highly recommended
This 1972 album is one the highlights of salsa trombonist/bandleader/producer Willie Colon's gangster persona period. So, the cover appropriately depicts him testifying on the stand with his bandmembers sitting in the jury box and his vocalist presiding from the bench! The title of the album itself could well be "Testifying," because the lyrics of the swinging and diverse songs it contains run the gamut of emotions and emotional situations (including the narration of a dream in which the singer's mother-in-law is hit by a truck!). (JV)

 
CUBA WILLIE COLON & ISMAEL MIRANDA Fania 130 112 Doble Energia $13.98
9 tracks, 48 minutes, highly recommended
This 1980 album brings together two great salsa artists at the height of their careers and powers-trombonist/producer/ bandleader Willie Colon and singer Ismael Miranda, provides them with great and varied arrangements by a battery of fine latin musical arrangers and lets the sparks fly with band's playing propelling Miranda's vocal soaring. Unfortunately this record was not a hit at the time of its original release, but has come to be acknowledged as a classic since then.(JV)

 
CUBA FANIA ALL STARS Fania 130 042 Live At The Cheetah, Vol. 1 $13.98
4 tracks, 39 minutes, essential
If any record can be said to have launched the salsa phenomenon of the 1970's, it was this album (and its companion volume 2), which recorded a classic salsa show on August 26, 1971 at the New York City club the Cheetah. The film version of the concert formed an integral part of the documentary "Our Latin Thing" (Nuestra Cosa). This is simply one of the all time best live recordings in any musical genre and the personnel reads like a Who's Who of latin music. The show stopping finale, Quitate Tu (all sixteen plus minutes of it), features vocals from six of salsa greatest vocalists. (JV)

 
JEWISH/ YIDDISH/ KLEZMER VICTORIA HAZAN Global Village 115 Todas Mis Esperansas $15.98
24 tracks, 73 mins, highly recommended
Beautiful collection of 1940s recordings made in New York of Judeo-Spanish, Greek and Turkish song by Victoria Hazan who was born in Smyrna, Turkey in 1896 - the birthplace of Greek rembetika music. Hazan's music has the feel of old style rembetika with expressive moaning vocals and accompaniments by violin, oud and kanoun plus occasional clarinet. Ms Hazan sings in the languages of her homeland - Judeo-Spanish (Ladino), Turkish and Greek. Lovely performances. (FS)

 
AFRICA-SOUTH AFRICA LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO Blue Moon 024 Heavenly $8.98
13 tracks, 60 mins, recommended
This CD is a few years old, but new to our catalog. On this the legendary South African acapella outfit delivers another CD chock full of harmony and joy. The bulk of the material is covers of western artists songs, many sung in duet with other famous western artists. Of note, you get Dolly Parton joining in on Knockin' on Heaven's Door, Phoebe Snow with Curtis Mayfield's People Get Ready, Lou Rawls on Sam Cooke's Chain Gang, and many more The overlaying theme of this record is the holy spirit and the human spirit, which Ladysmith Black Mambazo sing as majestically as we would expect. Some of the production and instrumentation is a bit off the mark, but overall the sound is good. (JM)

 
CUBA HECTOR LAVOE Fania 130 108 Revento $13.98
7 tracks, 34 minutes, highly recommended
Lavoe was the paradigm salsa singer with a tragic life to match. He was called "El Cantante" (the Singer), which is also the name of a Marc Antony/J-Lo Lavoe biopic (one of two Lavoe biopics scheduled to open in 2007). He sang with Willie Colon and the Fania All Stars in the sixties and early seventies, but was a solo act by the time of this 1985 emotionally wrenching classic (revento means burst). The music here is quite diverse in tempo and style, but Lavoe wears his heart on his sleeve on each track. (JV)

 
TEXAS-MEXICAN LYDIA MENDOZA Arhoolie 513 Recuerdos De Lydia Mendoza $12.98
15 tracks, 39 min., highly recommended
Lydia Mendoza, "the first star of Tejano," began recording in 1928 at age 12 with her family's group, Cuarteto Carta Blanca, and had her first big hit in 1934 with Mal Hombre. By the 1960s and 1970s, she cut an enormous number of sides for Falcon Records in Mexico. None of these sides (cut in the early '70s) which feature the legendary singer accompanied by her own 12-string guitar and with mariachis, and at times with an orchestra, have been released before in any form, making this a particularly welcome addition to her catalog. Arhoolie has put out 7 CDs on Mendoza, a documentary by Les Blank and Chris Strachwitz, and a book! In the booklet notes, Strachwitz even includes a contact number for Mendoza in case anyone would like to express his appreciation for her unparalleled career in music. But even if she had only recorded El Limpiabotas from this album, she would still deserve a phone call. (JC)

 
CUBA ISMAEL MIRANDA CON ORCHESTRA HARLOW Fania 130 103 Abran Paso! $13.98
8 tracks, 42 minutes, highly recommended
Because he began his singing career as a preteen, Puerto Rican born salsa singer Ismael Miranda was dubbed "the pretty boy of salsa." He later spent several years singing with New York City latin pianist and bandleader Larry Harlow's Orchestra Harlow and cut this album with that band at age 21 in 1971, just before leaving on a solo career (branching into songwriting , Miranda wrote five of the nine songs on this album). Both Miranda and Harlow had continued success after the split. (JV)

 
CUBA ORQUESTA INMENSIDAD Fania 130 020 La Salsa De Hoy $13.98
8 tracks, 43 minutes, highly recommended
Orquesta Inmensidad was a leading salsa band of the 1980's and a pioneer in the trend which came to be called "salsa romantica," a softer, more ballad-oriented brand of salsa (which in turn provoked a counter-trend of "salsa dura"-hard salsa-in the 1990's). The band got its recording contract after they played with the Fania All Stars in Miami in 1980 and impressed Fania producer Jerry Masucci. This is the third of their nine Fania albums and is a sort of greatest hits package. It is notable for the songwriting and arranging talents of bandmembers Roberto Blades (Ruben's brother) and Raul Gallimore. (JV)

 
CUBA JOHNNY PACHECO Fania 130 075 El Maestro $19.98
2 CDs, 30 tracks, 118 minutes, essential
This set is aptly named. Dominican-born Johnny Pacheco has done it all-played flute and percussion, composed, led a band, and arranged and produced. He co-founded Fania Records along with his divorce lawyer, Jerry Masucci. This career-spanning collection finds him fronting the band and ranges in time from his charanga (flute, strings, and percussion band) days of the early 1960's through the time of salsa and includes his classic collaborations with singers like Celia Cruz and Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez. Through it all the music stays roots-connected. (JV)

 
CUBA CHARLIE PALMIERI & HIS ORCHESTRA Fania 130 065 The Heavyweight $13.98
6 tracks, 38 minutes, highly recommended
New York City-born of Puerto Rican heritage, Charlie Palmieri was the leading latin pianist of his day and a prime creator of the salsa musical form. In his earlier years, he was the musical director of many famous latin orchestras (including those of Xavier Cugat and Tito Puente), but in the 1960's he assumed the helm of his own band. This 1978 classic combines a relentless, danceable swing with excellent jazz-influenced solos and improvisations-many by Palmieri himself. (JV

 
ARGENTINA SUNI PAZ Smithsonian Folkways 40532 Bandera Mia - Songs Of Argentina $15.98
17 tracks, 46 min., recommended
Bandera Mia ("Flag Of Mine") finds the late 1960s-1970s protest singer (she used to open for Caesar Chavez at rallies!) as committed as ever to her current and long-time interest: Argentina. Some of the songs here were penned by assorted Argentine songwriters, some (the anthemic and uplifting title track, for one, and the beautiful and delicate Iguazu, for another) Paz composed. The booklet notes (36 pages) are in English and Spanish and include comments on each cut, but sadly (for non-Spanish speakers) do not contain the lyrics. You can't have everything. What you can have is some delightful and impassioned music of and about Argentina from a veteran performer who hasn't lost an ounce of her musical power. (JC)

 
CUBA TITO PUENTE Fania 130 028 Para Lose Rumberos $13.98
10 tracks, 37 minutes, essential
Tito Puente was the king of Mambo from the late forties through the mid-sixties, but by the time the seventies began he was seemingly a has been as musical tastes in latin music changed dramatically. Then a funny thing happened - Santana covered Oye Como Va, (one of Tito's classic fifties tunes)-and suddenly he was relevant all over again. On their third LP Santana covered another Puente song - Para Los Rumberos - and Tito then remade it, too, and used it as the title track of this blistering 1972 comeback album which features re-workings of a number of classic latin tunes. (JV)

 
CUBA RICARDO RAY Y BOBBY CRUZ Fania 130 083 El Bestial Sonido $13.98
8 tracks, 42 minutes, essential
In the sixties, Brooklyn-born and Julliard-trained latin pianist Ricardo Ray joined with vocalist Bobby Cruz to form one smoking latin soul band. As their music evolved into salsa in the turbulent seventies, they cut this serious but swinging classic in 1971 (it was the first album on Vaya, a subsidiary Fania label). It melds many diverse latin music styles and genres and features striking arrangements and lyrics, notably the consoling Guaguanco Triste (a Ruben Blades composition). (JV)

 
CUBA ISMAEL RIVERA CON KAKO Y SU ORQUESTA Fania 130 064 Lo Ultimo En La Avenida $13.98
10 tracks, 32 minutes, highly recommended
Ismael "Maelo" Rivera was an exceptional sonero (improvisational latin singer) from his early days in the 1950's with Cortijo's band in Puerto Rico in the 1950's until death at age 56 in 1987. This exciting 1971 mid-career album finds him singing with the crack band of Francesco Angel Bastar a/k/a/ "Kako." It presents an exquisite combination of Maelo's vocals floating over the driving latin percussion of Kako's timbales and Patato's congas in a wide variety of latin rhythms. (JV)

 
CUBA SONORA PONCENA Fania 130 084 Jubilee $13.98
7 tracks, 43 minutes, highly recommended
This band was named for its hometown of Ponce, Puerto Rico and was founded by Don Quique Lucca in 1954. After his father's death, Papo Lucca, Jr. carried on leadership of the band. Although its music has evolved over the years, it has always mixed Cuban roots with many jazz elements. Its music has also always been hard-driving, even during the salsa romantica period of the 1980's (during which time this 1985 album celebrating the band's 30th anniversary was cut).(JV)

 
CAJUN DUNICE THERIOT Swallow 6198 The Essential Collection $15.98
16 tracks, 42 mins, recommended
Dunice Theriot, who died in 1990 at the young age of 46, was a fine singer who sang Cajun music with a country flavor and country music with a Cajun flavor. He wrote most of the songs he recorded and had a hit in 1972 with the fine Cotton Rows included here. Arrangements includes guitars, steel guitar and occasionally fiddle but no accordion. I generally prefer the Cajun songs to the country ones but they are all worthwhile. (FS)

 
AFRICA-KENYAN VARIOUS ARTISTS Arc Music 2030 Spotlight On Kenyan Music $13.98
14 tracks, recommended
Lovely collection of contemporary Kenyan music featuring some of the finest new talents in Kenyan music who participated in the "Spotlight On Kenyan Music" programme for the development of Kenyan afro-fusion music, initiated by Alliance Francaise de nairobi with the support of the Embassy of France and Total Kenya. Don't let the "fusion" part scare you - this is strongly traditionally based music with sensuous vocals and rhythms using traditional and contemporary instrumentation, often featuring horns and skittery guitar. The songs include love songs, songs dealing with the life and hardships of Kenyans as well as songs about Africa in general. (FS)

 
AFRICA-SOUTH AFRICA VARIOUS ARTISTS Arc Music 1586 Exotic Voices From Africa $16.98
Two CDs, 30 tracks, 100 mins, highly recommended
In spite of the generic album title this is actually a lovely collection of choral music from South Africa. There are small and large groups, female groups, male groups and mixed groups, sacred and secular music, unaccompanied and accompanied performances ranging across the spectrum of South African tribal groups. South African choral music is truly sublime. The songs have consistently beautiful melodies and the vocal harmonies are simply stunning - dense and layered with different vocal lines going on the same time - it's hard to describe but the effect is spine chilling. Everyone knows Ladysmith Black Mambazo and they are represented by one song here but it's a shame that most of the other groups are little known outside of South Africa as their music is equally affecting. There are no recording dates given but I would imagine most of these performances are from the 80s - the booklet has brief notes on each of the groups featured. (FS)

 
TRINIDAD/ CALYPSO VARIOUS ARTISTS Castle PULSE 229 Kings Of Caypso $9.98
28 tracks, 74 mins, highly recommended
Wonderful collection of calypso. There are no notes but judging from the content these tracks were recorded in England in the 1950s. Some great topical songs including Mighty Terror commentating on segregation in the U.S. South in Heading North, Lord Invader on the marriage of Grace Kelly & Prince Rainier, Terror begging to be arrested by Women Police In England and, most surprisngly for the 1950s Terror's girl friend going off with her lesbian lover in Patricia Gone With Millicent. Lots of other goodies including the surrealistic Zombie Jamboree by Noel Anthony and Lord Invader wanted to be reincarnated as a bed bug so he can bite fat women! Lots of fun with great singing and musical arrangements. (FS)

 
JAMAICA VARIOUS ARTISTS Castle PULSE 825 Jamaican Rock Steady Party $9.98
20 tracks, 57 mins, highly recommended
In the early 60s Jamaican music was dominated by ska. By 1970 it was reggae. In between for a few years in the mid/ late 60s they had "rock steady" inspired by the slow, intense dance that the "rude boys" hanging around street corners engaged in and named by Alton Ellis's song Rock Steady (not include here, unfortunately). Unlike ska there were fewer covers of American R&B songs and the one example here - The Techniques version of Chris Kenner's Sick & Tired perfectly illustrates how rock steady musicians slowed down the tempo and gave the music a more sensuous feel. There are a lot more gems her drawn from the Trojan and Creole catalogs featuring Ken Lazarus & The Dragonaires, The Sealmates, The Creations, Glen Brown, Lester Sterling & The Dragonaires (the wonderful instrumental Papa Lick), Clancy Eccles, Lloyd & The Groovers, Ewan & Denver, Nehmiah Reid, Val Bennet and others. Excellent sound, brief notes and a bargain price round out an indispensable package. (FS)

 
MISCELLANEOUS VARIOUS ARTISTS Cristal 101 Chansons Creole $21.98
20 tracks, 60 mins, recommended
We have unearthed this very odd compilation full of wonderfully odd songs. What discernable information there is in the liner notes seems lost in translation. I tried to decipher as best as I could, but when they described Slim Gaillard as " Bard of Jazz without zinc, all in smart onomatopoeias," I gave up. What appears to be the theme is Creole music, music that inspired it, and music that was inspired by it. So you get a unique blend of Jazz, Calypso and different world musics. There's a wonderful track by Lord Kitchener called Birth Of Ghana, a very cool Ink Spots with That Cat Is High, and Slim Gaillard doing his classic Yep Roc Heresy, which I have always found to be full of "smart onomatopoeias." The Eupheme Cooper track All For You is like Miriam Makeba meets the Shaggs while babysitting Damian from the Omen. There a lots of other special tracks like that. Definitely one for the musically adventurous. (JM)

 
JAMAICA/ REGGAE VARIOUS ARTISTS Pressure Sounds 40 Red Bumb Ball - Rare & Unreleased Rock Steady, 1960-68 $23.98
22 Tracks, 61 mins, highly recommended
Rocksteady--my humble definition: The bridge between Ska and Reggae. Ska styling slowed down to give the musicians room to invent. "Red Bumb Ball" is a fine collection that focuses on Derrick Morgan's productions and performances from the late 1960's. Morgan is a bit of an underappreciated figure nowadays, but one who was very important in the evolution of Ska/ Rocksteady/ Reggae and in the Jamaican music scene since pretty much day one. Includes first release for Morgan's "Hop" record label Red Bumb Ball By Lloyd & Devon, which became a huge hit that got things rolling good for the label and many projects to come. Filled with records for his and many other record labels from 1966 - 1968, this is chock full of great music. Derrick Morgan himself sings I'm the Ruler, and you better believe him. (JM)
ROLAND ALPHONSO: Hop Special/ THE BLACK BROTHERS: Give Me Loving/ Lonely World/ THE CONSUMMATES: Do It Now/ The More They Get/ AUSTIN FAITHFUL: Cry No More For Me/ I'm In A Rocking Mood/ THE INVENTORS: Food Of Love/ LLOYD & DEVON: Red Bumb Ball/ DERRICK MORGAN: Bad Luck On Me/ Father Killam/ I'm the Ruler/ Prisoner In Love/ Tears On My Pillow/ The Story (I Wish I Was An Apple)/ Do You Love Me?/ PAULINE MORGAN & THE CONSUMMATES: Give Me A Chance/ ERIC SMITH & THE LOVELETTS: I've Been Searching/ THE VICEROYS: Let Him Go (Wrap It Up)/ Walkie Talkie/ Every Day/ Give It To Him

 
JEWISH/ YIDDISH/ KLEZMER VARIOUS ARTISTS Reboot Stereophonic 006 Jewface $14.98
16 tracks, 51 mins, highly recommended
Ethnic dialect humor was a staple of the early recording industry and this fascinating and delightful collection presents 16 examples of Jewish dialect humor recorded between 1905 and 1916. The performers are both Jews and Goys and although the CD claims "perhaps the most offensive album ever made" there is very little here to offend anyone - the humor, though exaggerating Jewish stereotypes are a far cry from the minstrel songs and their description of African-Americans and the Jewish performers are engaging in self deprecating humor that's part of Jewish culture. With that clarification the music here is fun and delightful and in some cases still very funny almost 100 years after they were recorded. Artists include Monroe Silver, Rhoda Bernard, The Premier Quartet (actually the American Quartet), Ada Jones, Fanny Brice, Julian Rose and others. Sound quality is excellent and there are detailed notes and some beautiful reproductions of sheet music of some of the songs. (FS)

 
CANADA VARIOUS ARTISTS Smithsonian Folkways 40539 Classic Canadian Songs $14.98
30 tracks, 72 min., recommended
Canada. The great white north. If you're expecting songs about the mounted police and fur trappers, well, actually yes, there are some here. But you also get a square dance, a murder ballad, a Yiddish children's song, an Irish reel, and moose and bear calls. The songs are so diverse that it would make a lovely parlor game to have people try to guess the organizing principle of the album, if only people still had parlors. Among the most charming moments is Danse Carre by Edgar Morin, all six tracks by Alan Mills (calling to mind a sort of Canadian Burl Ives, stylistically), The Old G. by Stanley G. Triggs. The two Cree songs may have trouble sustaining long-term interest, but they represent exceptions to an otherwise entertaining collection. Most tracks were recorded in the 1950s and early 1960s, and as always with Smithsonian Folkways, the booklet notes and photos are a pleasure. (JC)

 
EGYPT VARIOUS ARTISTS Topic TSCD 931 Women Of Egypt, 1924-1931 $16.98
16 tracks, 60 mins, highly recommended
Wonderful and varied collection of recordings made by Egyptian women singers in the 20s and early 30s. Although Umm Kulthum (aka Oum Kalsoum, 1904-1975) is well known outside her native country most of the other artists here are little known today though in their day were as popular and successful as Kulthumm, selling substantial numbers of their recordings and appearing on the stage and in movies. Accompanied by small groups or, occasionally larger orchestras featuring traditional instruments, they sing songs of love with a gorgeous and passionate intensity. This collection draws on recordings housed in the British Sound Archive and the sound quality is superb. The 20 page booklet has background information, biographies of the performers, period photos and others graphics. (FS)

 
CAJUN VARIOUS ARTISTS Valcour 002 Allons Boire Un Coup $14.98
16 tracks, recommended
Valcour's debut album by Cedric Watson & Corey Ledet (Valcour 001 - $14.98) was one of the musical highlights of 2006. Although this one isn't as good it certainly is an entertaining selection of Cajun and Creole songs on a subject near and dear to their hearts - drink. The songs cover ths spectrum from the joyous to the tragic. Cedric Watson returns with two of the highlights here - the chilling acapella Table Ronde and the soulful La Joh A Plambeau with Cedric and his fiddle joined by Joel Savoy on guitar and Chris Stafford on bass & drums. Other artists include Joel Savoy, Linzay Young & Richard Burgess, Anna Laura Edmiston (a lovely version of the Marie Falcon song Mon Bon Vieux Mari), Courtney Granger and Friends, Feufollet, The Pine Leaf Boys (an odd version of the Nathan Abshire classic Pine Grove Blues), The Red Stick Ramblers, Ann Savoy & Jane Vidrine, The Lost Bayou Ramblers and others. (FS)

 
MISCELLANEOUS VARIOUS ARTISTS World Music Network 1174 Rough Guide To Yodelling $14.98
Delightful and varied collection exploring the wide variety of yodeling throughout the world and in a variety of different contexts. In addition to the expected America country and Swiss yodeling we also hear yodeling from Hawaii, Bollywood, Mexico, Mongolia, Africa and a variety of blends of cross-cultural and avant garde yodeling. Artists include Cathy Fink (a children's song teaching how to yodel), Christine Lautenberg, Shelley HIrsch & David Weinstein, The Ho'op'i Brothers, Kishore Kumar, Carolina Cotton, Gillian WElch, Kenny Roberts, Ed Sanders, baka Beyond and more. Includes booklet with extensive notes by Bart Plantenga, author of the book length study of yodeling "Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo: The Secret History Of Yodeling Around The World."

 

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