Putumayo Presents: Bossa Nova Around the World
We say: You can take it out of Brazil, but it's still Bossa Nova.
Putumayo has perpetual wanderlust. This can turn out to be a fatal flaw or can be a major strength depending on the compilation. They shy away from just putting out a reggae album with Jamaicans or a Cuban music album with only Cubans. They must go out and scour the globe to find other far-flung people recording that type of music.
Fortunately, the characteristics of Bossa Nova have been established enough over the decades that "you know it when you hear it" and you can only stretch those boundaries but so far. So while this collection has singers and bands from Germany (2raumsohnung), Canada (Amanda Martinez), France (Tom & Joy), Serbia (Dusko Goykovich), Norway (Hilde Hefte), South Korea (Monla), and other spots around the globe, this is a far more cohesive collection than most.
It is clear that most of the songs on Bossa Nova Around the World come from people with either a real Brazilian connection or a strong love of the music. It kicks off with three winners right away: "Jardim" from Bïa, "Esperança" from Nancy Vieira with Tito Paris, and "Tout Seul" from Didier Sustrac. Fortunately it keeps going strong after that, from 50-year-old classics like "So Nice" to new compositions that are imbued with the right spirit. There's a little twist here, a little bend there, and Brazilian music sung in different languages now and then, but it's all laid-back, shuffling Bossa Nova.
If you like this music—and it's really hard not to smile and feel like mixing a cocktail when you hear it—then this is is something you should pick up for a lazy afternoon under the shade of a coconut palm or a beach umbrella.
Nortec Collective We say: The groundbreaking Tijuana group—now a duo—displays its split personality.
We say: The groundbreaking Tijuana group—now a duo—displays its split personality.
I love/hate Nortec Collective. They're one of the greatest arguments out there for what we've gained by being able to download individual tracks instead of entire albums if we want.
The problem with this group is now clearly stated in their name. Instead of being just "Nortec Collective," they've added the stage names of the two remaining creators Ramón Amezcua and Pepe Mogt. (Originally there were four). That's because while they're billed as a collective, at times these two come across like the pushmi-pullyu animal of Dr. Dolittle, each wanting to go in a different direction.
I'm clearly on the Bostich side. I loved the madcap Mexican abandon of the Tijuana Sessions Volume 3 masterpiece album, but was unimpressed with the sappy Pepe Mogt slow songs with vocals that kept popping up on Tijuana Sound Machine. (Remove those though and it's a killer short album.) In the vinyl days this new one could have been Bostich on side A, Fussible on side B, with two distinct personalities. I never would have flipped it over.
The thing is, when Nortec Collective is good, they're really good and I'd still pay a large sum to see them live. The first three tracks on here had me thinking I'd downloaded something fantastic: "Borderland" and track 3 "Punta Banda" could not have been put out by any other group, while "I Count the Ways" is a stupendous dance floor pop song that mixes a Brand New Heavies type horn and strings section with Mexican tuba and accordian accents. In a perfect world, this would be a global top-10 hit instead of the drek my neighbors keep blasting.
Alas, the fourth track, "We're too late" has a great backing track, but the song itself gets dangerously close to the cheesy pop line. Many of the following ones, including the title track, are more of the same: conventional sap with a backing track that tries to fool you into thinking there's more to it than there really is. "Must Love" is funky enough to remind us that we're still south of the border, but feels too much like it should come with a side order of marshmallows and rainbows. "Last View from Slussen" is pure filler.
Some songs live up to the Norteña meets techno promise of their name and mission: you can't help but grin when you hear "Do It" or "Centinela." But for this conflicted album, it seems almost impossible to love the whole thing. Click on one of the links to the right to hear samples and pick up the tracks that get your juices flowing.
New Paradigm Global Music We say: Don't judge a CD by its horrendous cover
Carlos GoGo Gomez
We say: Don't judge a CD by its horrendous cover
If you can judge a CD by its cover, the Bulivar 2000 album above is a masterpiece. This one is a kid's kindergarten project.
When this CD arrived in the mail, I pulled it out of the envelope and immediately started laughing. I showed it to the three other people in the room, ages 10 to 43, and all of them busted a gut as well. There's a thumbnail to the right, but click on one of those links below to see it in its full horrible glory.
Eventually I popped it into my CD player anyway and found that what's inside is nothing to snicker at. This is lounge background music mostly, but it's good lounge music. Most of the tracks could be on tap at your favorite hip coffee shop or city cocktail bar and work just fine.
You know this is going to be "set it and forget it" music when you see that the first track is ten minutes long. The shortest one is six minutes. So naturally the songs can get a little repetitive if you are really paying attention, but apart from the bizarre 4th dimension motivational speech accompanying "Law of Attraction," this is mostly world beat electronica music to play in the background. While the cover harkens to India and there are a lot of yoga-worthy eastern elements to the music, "GoGo" Gomez is a trained Latin percussionist. He's also a devotee of the martial arts and a high priest of the Yoruba religion—whatever that means.
All that sounds like a mess, but fortunately this is a relatively focused collection. It provides enough interesting musical ideas and beats to sound fresh, but knows how to find a good groove and stick with it. It ranges from mood music that would be good for yoga or massage ("Water Dragon" and "Metu Neter") to Kimpton Hotels lobby music ("Aremu Odudua") to late-night club music ("Sanctuary of the Pink Diamond") in an assured and confident manner.
Mr. Gomez could use a better art director next time around, but musically he's on the mark.