various artists,
World 2004
(Wrasse, 2004)

World 2004 is a two-disc compilation of 34 songs from 28 countries. The musical styles range from Latin American to African to Middle Eastern to European. Most have a modern sound, but the styles range from pop to reggae to flamenco to jazz, blues and beyond. Many of the tracks blend various styles in a fusion of sounds from multiple continents.

One song that grabbed me right away was "Tonado del Cabastrero" by Simon Diaz of Venezuela. He plays the cuatro (a guitar) as the only instrumental backup to this simple piece. His vocal range is what carries the track. I don't usually think this of male singers, but Simon has a beautiful high note. Simon has made over 50 albums and has also worked on television as well as radio.

Dona Rosa, from Portugal, was a blind street singer for years. Her song "Resineiro" showcases fado, a music popular in Portugal. Her voice almost sounds ordinary, yet full of experience. I love the way she rolls her Rs. The accordion and guitar lend a pleasant backdrop to her vocals. I can play this track over many times and not get tired of it!

Italian Pietra Montecorvino has the voice of someone who has been smoking for decades. At first, you might wonder what the heck is she doing with "Guaglione" (a tune you might be familiar with). Once you become comfortable with her raw, throaty style, this song drags you in. It is actually the backing vocals and percussion that hooked me. In time, I came to appreciate Pietra's rendition and actually count this as one of the top tracks on the first CD.

If these CDs fail in one area, it is that there is no true representation from Asia. One track, "Xin" by Fat Marley, mixes a female vocalist from China with a male vocalist from India. The music is representative of neither country and, as such, takes any Asian feel out of this offering. If you are one of those folks who quickly decides whether to like a compilation based on the first couple of songs you hear, then skip "Xin" (disc 1, track 1) until a future listen. There are a lot better tunes (33 of them to be exact), I assure you.

One thing to note on a compilation of this size: If you don't care for one track, skip to the next one. You will probably like it better. The transitions from such disparate styles took me a while to get used to. I also didn't warm up to the first CD quite as quickly as I did the second. I do find myself listening to this collection more often than when I first received it. If you give it a chance, though, I think it might just grow on you as well.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 16 April 2005

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