various artists,
Latin Travels
(Six Degrees, 2000)

Six Degrees, an independent record label based out of San Francisco, has released the compilation Latin Travels to showcase the works of 10 different artists and bands. These works illustrate the various rhythms from Brazil, the Caribbean, Cuba and Africa that make up the Latin sound that has become rather popular in the last several years.

"Royal Rumba" (Fila Brazilia Remix) is a fun, upbeat tune that gets you in the mood to dance. Robin Jones, based in the UK, and Joao Bosco de Oliveira cooperated to bring this complex rumba guaguanco to life. I like the vocals. They are even more impressive when you find out that they are improvised.

"Supertropical" by Senor Coconut starts out with an irritatingly repetitive high-pitched sound, before progressing into a multitude of short, repetitive riffs. I was not too impressed. Senor Coconut is actually an alias of German musician/label owner Atom Heart. "Viva La Revolution!" managed to grab me despite that, in general, I do not relate to singing about "the Revolution." I like the percussion Garry Hughes puts in the song.

Parisian St. Germain keeps your toes tappin' with "Soul Salsa Soul," a long song at more than 10 minutes. The song, which seems a lot shorter than it is, makes me think of what Art of Noise might sound like if they went Latin. What I like best about this instrumental is the combination of flute, horn and piano action.

Men from the Nile -- a duo from Chicago -- present "Watch Them Come" (Jazzanova Remix). This tune is more dance club sounding vs. Latin. It does not sound like it belongs on this compilation CD. But here it is. Jazzanova is a six-man remix collective from Germany. "Voce Gosta" (Restless Soul Peak Mix) is not a bad song, but I always zone out at some point during this almost 9-minute mostly instrumental. Suba is an expatriate from Yugoslavia who has lived in Sao Paulo, Brazil for about 10 years. This remix was the work of the UK's Phil Asher (a.k.a. Restless Soul).

Not surprisingly, "Drumming Up a Storm" by Bob Holroyd is heavy on the percussion. The vocals include a large group of singers. This song incorporates many horns and whistles. This "...ingenious blend gets the heart racing and blood pumping." A mix of African and Latin rhythms can be heard on "Future Tropic" by the San Francisco-based Afro-Mystik. It is an OK instrumental, but nothing special. The musicians use the same samples over and over again.

Zuco 103 contributes "Brazilectro" (DJ Git Hyper Mix) to this compilation. I believe the original song is better. It can be found on their Outro Lado CD which I previously reviewed for Rambles. "Blue Eyed Beat Banging Soul" is full of catchy hooks. Terminal 3 is based out of Los Angeles and provides one of the better songs to listen to on this compilation.

Latin Travels certainly proves that the Latin beat has found a voice throughout the world. Many of the artists showcased here might not be Latin by birth, but this genre of music is definitely in their souls. This CD has its share of hits and misses as any compilation CD might. But like most compilations, it is also an economical way to check out a variety of artists to see which individual artists/groups might be worthy of your musical entertainment dollars.

[ by Wil Owen ]

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