Various Artists - Putumayo Presents World Hits (Putumayo, 2007)
World Hits is designed for the person who is curious about the music of other cultures, but is afraid to stray too far from the comfortable cocoon of popular music. It features several readily identifiable pop icons, and by presenting these musicians in collaborative contexts, there is enough hand holding to help neophytes get beyond the strangeness factor. Mongo Snatamaria's "Watermelon Man" popularized by Herbie Hancock is always a joy to hear with its mixture of Latin rhythms and jazz. Another hero of Latin fusion, Carlos Santana, is represented with his massively popular version of "Oye Como Va." The reggae contingent is well represented by the leadoff track, a collaboration by Mick Jagger and Peter Tosh, "(If You Gotta Walk) Don't Look Back" and Jimmy Cliff's swaggering "The Harder They Come." Some of the tracks like Jimmy Clegg's "Scatterlings of Africa" suffer from being a little too polished and produced, but they still serve their purpose. Manu Dibango's "Soul Makossa" works an interesting horn arrangement and some punchy tenor saxophone soloing to good effect, and they Gypsy Kings make the final stop on the disc with the guitar driven "Bamboleo." Hopefully these familiar pop star led themes will have the desired effect of encouraging listeners to broaden their musical horizons. A world of great music awaits.
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Ben Golderg - Orphic Machine (BAG, 2015) ****
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