Tag Archives: World

[164] Cartolo – Cartolo

3 Jun

The gentle, graceful, fragile guitar and vocal work of the first track lulls me into a false sense of relaxed security before the samba kicks in in earnest and blows the doors off any possibility of sitting still.

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But it’s not the Brazilian sound as I think I know it.

The guitar and percussion is present, but in song after song it is woodwind and occasional brass that takes the lead, the attention, the starring role.  While the mild yet beautiful vocals hold the structure, the beat, it is (depending on the track) flute and sax and trumpet which meanders all over the beach, explores the city, entwines friends and lovers.  These are the instruments which provide the passion, power, precision.

The fact that it is all so unexpected means that I can’t stop listening.

Having recently finished reading my brother’s book Benfica to Brazil an exploration of his time studying the language and culture (and football) of Cartola’s home -I am keenly aware of the lilting, slightly imprecise sound of Brazilian Portuguese he so wonderfully describes.

I see the scenes he wrote about, which Cartola lived and later recorded.

Here is a old fashioned but somehow timeless sound, neither modern nor dated, and always a pleasure to hear, but especially as the temperature climbs into the 80s, letting us know that summer is on its way.

Next Week:  Enrico Caruso – Twenty-one Favorite Arias

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 164 = 7%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (21 of 164 = 13%)
Recommend? Yes. (137 of 164 = 84%)

[157] Nati Cano’s Mariachi los Camperos – Viva el Mariachi

15 Apr

This is not New York City Subway Mariachi.

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The music on show here has more in common with great sweeping Opera than the high energy (and high volume) cheese regularly inflicted on locals and tourists alike.  While the close, multi-part harmonies and accordion accompaniment are still present, the sound is so much richer and fuller here.  It has weight and nuance.

It is instructional as well as pleasing to hear a genuinely quality example of a genre I so easily and regularly write off as shallow.  There is emotion and technique on display – it sounds like I should be watching a heavily costumed cast performing on a proscenium stage as I listen – and if I am not following a linear storyline, well, I always did enjoy non-traditional theater . . .

It’s strange.  The instrumentation and even overall feel of this recording is comparable in many ways to recent dud, the Flamenco sounds of Cameron, but where not even the sound of fingers flying on the guitar strings could capture my attention or affection, this Mexican variation is utterly captivating.

Maybe it’s the addition of the horns?

It’s a little bit Jazz in its freewheeling joy.  A little bit Classical in its concrete structure.  A little bit the aforementioned Opera, with Latin flourishes and outsize character.

And it is all pure entertainment.

Next Week:  Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band – Trout Mask Replica

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 157 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (21 of 157 = 13%)
Recommend? Yes. (131 of 157 = 83%)

[155] Camaron De La Isla – Le Leyenda Del Tiempo

1 Apr

I love the sound of a guitar.  Electric or classical, picked or strummed – even more than vocals, the guitar tends to be the touchstone for my musical appreciation.

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And the technical ability on display here from the very first notes is impressive.  It can be hectic fun in the more familiar, high energy flamenco moments, but these make up less than half of the recording.

It’s amazing that an album quite so short – the run time is just over a half hour- can be quite so scattershot.

Beyond the guitar work, this album is too eclectic even for my newly opened ears, too all over the place, with weird electric piano solos, odd disco riffs, chanting and wailing which appears to veer far from the Spanish roots one might expect,

The vocals are fervent, but quite raw and almost monochromatic.  Just one more facet of the sound that leaves me wanting . . . not more, precisely.  Perhaps the correct idea is wanting something different.

It’s kind of a mess, and not in an interesting or engaging way.

I want more wandering guitar, less experimentation, more melody and less uncomfortable wall of sound rhythm.  It has its moments, but not many of them, and they are not nearly consistent enough.

Is it that the sound is alien to me, or that it is actually less accomplished than most of the recordings to date?  Tough to tell, but I know I’m not enjoying it, and this time there is not enough surprise or suspense to hold my attention once I realize that this isn’t something that I want to be listening to.

Next Week:  Can – Tago Mago

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 155 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (21 of 155 = 14%)
Recommend? No.  (129 of 155 = 83%)

[153] Cafe Tacvba – Cuatro Caminos

18 Mar

Take the fire of post-punk, throw in a good helping of 60s melody makers, a dollop of world beats and you will come close to the recipe for this wonderful sound.

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The range of influences is impressive, from obvious Clash riffs, through No Doubt ska-pop and Beatles harmonies, to the catchiest video game soundtracks.  It is modern without sounding like it will become dated, since it is so anchored in other established sounds.

I can imagine rocking out to these tunes at a club even today, can understand how Cafe Tacvba could engage a teen encountering them for the first time the way that Queen and Bon Jovi captured my young attention.  There is a fresh earnest energy that goes hand in hand with the polished songcraft which results in a potent final product.

It’s so poppy, so much fun, and it is only my chauvinism that makes me wish it was in English.  Imagine how much more I might enjoy this if I could genuinely sing along.  But still, it is easy to recommend such an eclectic and accomplished recording which is also so undeniably enjoyable.

Next Week:  Uri Caine – Urlicht/Primal Light

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 153 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (21 of 153 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (128 of 153 = 84%)

[147] Burning Spear – Marcus Garvey

5 Feb

I may not have much of a context for appreciating Reggae, but the metronomic rhythm and socially conscious lyrics of this 1975 recording proves to be a hugely effective primer.

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Hypnotic, repetitious, coiled and poised always at the very point of action, each track bobs along in technically impressive and sonically pleasing haze, with the chanted vocals of Winston Rodney providing the structure for the horns and percussion to wind sinuously around.

While Reggae does not excite me the same way that Rock or Jazz can, I am greatly enjoying the juxtaposition of safe and comforting rhythms contrasting with on the nose lyrics – “Do you remember the days of slavery?”  And with repeated plays, the simple melodies and gentle relentlessness drill deep down into my brain, providing a contentment which is priceless.

There is very little variety among these 10 tracks, but very little is required in just of half an hour of music.

Nothing world altering, but not everything has to blow my mind to be enjoyable, memorable, worthy of revisiting.

Next Week: R L Burnside – Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 147 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (20 of 147 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (122 of 147 = 83%)

[145] The Bulgarian Women’s National Radio and Television Chorus – Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares

22 Jan

Here is a masterclass in harmony.

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This traditional choir singing modern arrangements of ancient Bulgarian Folk songs provide harmonies as far as the ear can hear – some familiar, some quite unexpected, but all beautiful and unforgettable.

Unlike the Gregorian Chants which were supposed to sooth but ultimately infuriated several months ago, these sounds are meant to entrance and engage and achieve this with a simplicity which is astonishing.

Here is a wall of sound, just a surely as any Phil Spector recording.  It fills a room, fills your head, removes any other distractions, demanding attention.

Rationally, I am aware that there are at least some instruments playing here, accompanying the vocalists.  But in my heart and in my imagination this is an a capella experience, many women holding and wavering notes in fascinating combinations until even the occasional discord is gorgeous.

Once more, Tom Moon has effortlessly and pleasingly expanded my range and scopr of musical knowledge, reminding me how much I di not know, how enjoyable finding out can be.

Next Week: Solomon Burke – Don’t Give Up On Me

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 145 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (20 of 145 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (120 of 145 = 83%)

[122] The Boys of The Lough – Live at Passim

7 Aug

Exciting and authentic, if I were to describe this album to you, it would sound identical to a description of The Bothy Band’s Old Hag You Have Killed Me, but each album is worthy and distinct in its own right.

Live at Passim

Live at Passim

In truth there is more range here than on the contemporary yet somehow more traditional Bothy album.  There are at once Classical leaning explorations (“The Day Dawn”) and wild Jazz tinged tangents on this live recording.

The highlight for me is the almost tape-loop minimalist effect achieved by the fiddles on “The Hound and the Hare” – it approaches Free Jazz levels of experimentation and is a wonder to hear.

The scope of what is heard here is larger than on most of the albums in any genre today, even including multiple hugely engaging moments of spoken word humor.

I enjoyed The Bothy Band well enough, but now I wonder if I might have found them a little lightweight if I had heard The Boys of the Lough first.  Perhaps it would be as valid to ask if I might have found Live at Passim impenetrable if I had discovered it before Old Hag . . .

In the end, for all the superficial similarities, there is certainly room for these two top notch examples of Celtic music from the 70s in my collection, and perhaps yours too.

Next Week: Johannes Brahms – Sonatas for Cello & Piano, Opp. 38, 99, 108

Owned before blogging? No. (11 of 122 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No. (19 of 122 = 16%)
Recommend? Yes. (101 of 122 = 83%)

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