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Spin the Globe CD reviews for September 2002

 

RAFAEL ANGEL APARICIO Y LOS HERMANOS APARICIOS: RECORDANDO A VENEZUELA – VENEZUELAN HARP MUSIC FROM THE LLANERA PLAINS REGION
NWARCD 102 Northwest Folklife Recordings, 305 Harrison, Seattle WA 98109

 

Blue-collar Venezuelan folk harp. If that phrase unsettled your mind, pop in this CD and allow yourself to be delighted. The harp on this recording is a 32-string version associated with laborers in the plains states that produce Venezuela's most famous musicians. With its crisp, precise eloqution, Aparicio’s harp can sound more like a Latin guitar than the harp of TV dream sequences. The CD includes songs from two recording sessions—one in 1996, the other from 1971 when Rafael Angel Aparicio and his brother Rafael de Jesus "Fuchito"came to Seattle to teach at the University of Washington. The quality of the older recordings suffers a bit next to the recent ones, but that's a very minor problem with a fine CD. As a rare chance to hear charming Venezuelan harp music, this release shines.

©2002 Scott Allan Stevens

ARMIK: LOST IN PARADISE
BR7100 Paras/Bolero 18653 Ventura Blvd. #314, Tarzana, CA 91356

www.bolero-records.com

 

Even if you haven't caught his six previous recordings, the first notes of "Barcelona Sunsets," will convince you that Armik is a fine musician. On the 11 original songs on Lost in Paradise, the nylon strings dance and shimmer. Armik calls it "Latin-gypsy-jazz."Yet, despite the technical brilliance, I'm not convinced. This is pop flamenco, like Gipsy Kings without the passionate singing. Great flamenco grabs your emotions with its tension-filled pauses and tempo changes, but Armik keeps the bass and percussion smooth and even, leaving no place to shout “¡Olé!” And even with the dazzling fingerwork, you never get the sense that he's stretching his abilities. Still, if you're less smitten than I with more traditional flamenco—as on Estrella Morente's recent, delicious CD My Songs and a Poem—Armik might deliver just the dose of flamenco you need.

©2002 Scott Allan Stevens

 

THE REUNION: CLOSURE
ARTIC28 Articfish Music, 205 Mazatlan, Henderson, NV, 89074

www.reunion2.com


The Reunion was "formed in 1996 to explore instrumental music from all parts of the world." If that sounds unrelistically broad or maddeningly vague, don't despair. By "all parts of the world" they further explain, they mean "Celtic to Spanish to New Age." The CD is entirely instrumental except the break-up song "Leaving" and an untitled bonus track, both of which have vocals with an angry edge (and could make great punk-grunge tunes). In sharp contrast, the rest of the CD is gentle, romantic, guitar-led music veering here and there into Spanish motifs ("Barcelona," "Pamplona") and other subtle influences, including the sounds of nature on "Woman of the Sea"and "Winds from the North." Perhaps a little too gentle; my ears were left craving the audible equivalent of hot sauce to sprinkle on this bland CD.

©2002 Scott Allan Stevens

 

YOUSSOU N’DOUR & ÉTOILE DE DAKAR: THE ROUGH GUIDE TO YOUSSOU N’DOUR & ETOILE DE DAKAR
RGNET 1109 CD, World Music Network, 6 Abbeville Mews, 88 Clapham Park Road, London SW4 7BX, UK

www.worldmusic.net

Youssou N'Dour is one of those musical giants who needs no introduction. He's been well known in the west since the late 1980s, and this new compilation brings to his myriad fans a taste of his earlier works from the late 1970s and early 1980s, some previously unavailable in the US. The 11 tracks, from various incarnations of N'Dour’s second band Étoile de Dakar, show the origins of his unique musical style, the blending of traditional Senegalese music and pop that became known as mbalax. The last two cuts are from a 1982 recording of Super Étoile de Dakar, the band that helped bring N'Dour international recognition, first in Europe, then in the US. As with Orchestra Baobab, you can hear the Senegalese pot simmering, mixing various musical elements in the hands of master musicians. During this era, imported Cuban big-band music became something truly African, propelled by the socio-political surge of black pride known as "Negritude." With seven pages of liner notes by compiler Graeme Ewens, this is a crucial bit of world music history that's good for your mind and your ears.

©2002 Scott Allan Stevens

 



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