VARIOUS. Rebirth Of The Cool Six. Forth & Broadway BRCD 620 524 279

††††††††††† The Rebirth series, now in itís sixth edition moves with the progression of music and attempts to find tracks which can be attributed to providing a cool feeling or sensation associated with them. Thereís acid jazz, jungle jazz, bhangra jazz, techno Jungle, Brazilian dancefloor, drum n bass, future funk, orchestral techno, reggae and rap all wrapped up in cotton wool. The remix by Fila Brazilla of the track by Lamb is an inspirational choice. All 15 pieces have been assembled with the overriding criteria of new directions whilst retaining that important listen ability usually achieved by the assistance of rich succulent harmonies to offset those percussive beats. Try for instance L.T.J Bukeinís Horizons or Ioís Claire or even Alex Reeceís Feel The Sunshine with the voice of Deborah Anderson who sounds a little like Bjork. If you wish to know the current direction of electronic dance then this is the album to buy. (Phil Brook).

 

DJ CAM. Underground Vibes. Columbia. COL 4877142

††††††††††† This is a startling debut from DJ Cam who flavours his trip hop style with genuine jazzy overtones. The emphasis is on slow laid back, back beats. Some of the language is very strong especially on the Intro which after twenty seconds follows straight into Gansta Shit complete with sitar playing. Generally the vibes are very mellow and chilled out mainly due to the writing partnership of Laurent Daumail and Philippe Lambert. There is a lot of musical understatement on the album including recessed piano tinkling with a haunting violin acting as I suppose a counterpoint to it all on Romantic Love. This album uses a lot of classical instruments or samples of these in the solo mode over a trip hop beat. The flute complements the piano, double bass and jazz style of drumming on Other Aspect. The eleventh track is very appropriately titled Free Your Turntable And Your Scratch Will Follow, which naturally includes cut up beats and liberal amounts of scratching that do not intrude too much and cause disjointed sections. The final piece, a Minus 8 remix of Dieu Reconnaitra Les Siens contains a number of styles including jungle surrounding the well known sample of Diamonds are Forever. This Frenchman was only 21 when he recorded this debut and it displays a maturity well beyond his coming of age. If his follow up album Substance is as good as this, then we have another very fine album to add to the ever growing collection. One not to be missed. (Phil Brook)

 

DOL-LOP. Cryptic Audio. Swim VWM16

Dal-Lop is the creation of Yoshic Kaeda, a 22 year old Japanese break-beat DJ, who uses Jazzy influences to mellow the hip-hop style into a recommended form of late night listening. These instrumental passages are of great fascination especially the way he combines the unbelievable lo-fi, tinny sounding samples with an out of focus deep bass that allows the melody to reinforce itself - and that's just the opening track entitled Shadow. Next comes Stem with it's Arabic rhythm superimposed on top of a trip-hop beat with flute accompaniment. This is the first solo release and I must admit it's a very good one. Dol-lop has obviously listened to lots of differing types of music and has developed his own style in which he successfully reinvents the musical wheel. The album continues with Qoke, where a reggae riff is given the opportunity to fight against the subterranean bass and the results are superb. In fact all the eight pieces are remarkable and only positive comments can be given. This guy has a lot of years in front of him to give us some musical inspiration and I wonder how he could possibly improve an this truely excellent and amazing debut. (Phil Brook)

 

DJIVAN GASPARYAN. Moon Shines At Night. All Saints Records. ASCD 16.

††††††††††† Whilst the title might be a little obvious, the music isnít. Haunting, melancholy and very atmospheric. Djivan comes from Armenia, which, no doubt, adds even more weight and conviction to these sad and mournful images that seem to appear from some deep race- memory! All Saints Records is the record company that features music from Eno, both Brian and Roger and John Hassell, so itís not really that much of a surprise that music like this should appear. What is a surprise is why itís taken so long? The instrument that Djivan plays is known as a duduk, or Ďnay, in Armenia. Itís a very difficult sound to describe as to compare it with any Western wind instrument would corrupt your idea as to what it really sounds like. Very very haunting. Many of the titles help forge some superb mental pictures, like the title track, Lovely Spring and Apricot Tree. The albumís produced by Michael Brook, who himself has had much to do with ambient music. Very relaxing indeed. (Dave W)

 

VARIOUS. Tumi Cuba Classics Volume One: Son. Tumi CD049; ROBERTO PLA & HIS LATIN ENSEMBLE. Right On Time. Tumi CD051

††† It seems that Latin music has never been so popular, and its influence is continuing to permeate throughout popular music. Up until now my experience of Latin music has been mostly via the Fania label (originally from Island and later via Charly Records), so it came as a surprise to find another British label specialising in reissuing the real stuff from Cuba itself. Tumi certainly have their act together as you only have to listen once to Cuba Classics Vol 1 to know that this is the genuine article. All eleven tracks are by Cuban bands, most unknown in the west, except to the aficionados. Orquesta Reve is the only name to ring a bell, but that doesn't mean that Orquesta Los Van Van, Opus 13, Grupo Sierra Maestra, and all the other artists aren't up the same standard. Compared to Salsa, the Son style is less strident and more melodic. Salsa, which is more American-based, is far noisier and brash. Son is the dance music of Cuba and this excellent collection should get your feet tapping in seconds.

††† Right On Time continues Tumi's search for the best Latin dance music - and surprisingly they have found it right on their own doorstep! Roberto Pla is a Colombian musician based in the UK, and his Latin Ensemble consists of mainly English musicians, along with a few emigre Latinos. The album is a fine mixture of Cumbia, Salsa and Latin-jazz - something for everyone, in fact. The standard of musicianship is excellent and is definitely on a par with groups such as those on the other album in this review. Tracks such as Finlandson really cook, and this is an album I return to frequently if I feel down in the dumps.

††††††††††† Both of these albums are highly recommended - both to the experienced Latin fan and to those who want to dip their toes into the genre. Now where are my tacos... (Phil Brook)

 

VARIOUS. Nu Jazz Generation. Clean Up Records CUP024CD.

††††††††††† Jazz meets a beat with attitude? Classed as the new jazz, this compilation has perhaps come as close to describing what it contains. Much has been made over the years of jazz. It keeps reinventing itself, or rather some trendies decide its become hip to have it in the clubs again. As any jazz fan will tell you, it never really goes away. Most of the 11 tracks on here, though, are very much new jazz. Half-familiar riffs of mute trumpet, foggy sax or chord patterns are saturated with samples, new beats and more 'modern' treatments, with the end result being very likeable. A lot of bands into this kind of music has firmly bedded in jazz, no matter how subtle, and on here, acts like Data, Ballistic Brothers, Papa Blue, Raw Deal and Mark Murphy strut their stuff very proudly. Plenty of remixes too, of which I'd have been interested in hearing the originals. Ah well, still a bloody good album. (Dave W).

 

VARIOUS. After The Rain. Svek. VISA61733098

†††† These dozen tracks compiled by Stephen Grieder for the Swedish arm of the Virgin label, concentrates on the modern beats in a chilled out environment. The poorly named You've Got Rhythm by Joel Mull aurally illustrates the mellow downtempo nature of a really good instrumental. The following track by DJ I.N.C definitely is not what I expected as this funky bass tune features a good sax vibe complementing a jazz styled piano with sympathetic drumming. True School is one of those pieces that certainly grow on the listener. Universal Funk's Roots again does not give what would normally be associated with the names as this very laid back track is ridden with jazzy beats and the ever so cool double bass exerts a strong influence in which the funk is not entirely forgotten. A more up-tempo instrumental is the wonderful Lordag by Forme in which the mellow riffs at times almost hides the other subtle melodies and electronic effects. It's all assisted by a very deep bass which dos not start until midway through the track. There is a total of three offerings from Sunday Brunch with the best being Honung. Chilled out jazz/funk electronica is the best description that I can come up with. It may not roll off the tongue easily, but the music is surprisingly relaxing. Being a single album, it provides just about the right amount of this style. (Phil Brook)

 

AFRO CELT SOUND SYSTEM. Volume 2 : Release. Real World. CDRW76

††††††††††† The ingredients are unlikely to match! Take Afro rhythms on a dance beat and add traditional Celtic jig riffs.... YUK, some may say, but they have not heard the second instalment of this band's own brand of music. The opening Release features a duet with the resident vocalist Larla O'Lionaird and Sinead O'Connor and this remarkably catchy track has just the right chords to be the ideal single to give them greater exposure. After the uptempo jig of Lovers Of Light, the band are in a more reflective mood at the start of Eireann, but then it suddenly takes off with a bundle of inventive melodies played on a variety of instruments including the flute. Naturally when the half way point is reached, the music does not loose any vibrancy and Even In My Dreams has a dub feel with beautiful spacey effects. The last track is an instrumental version of the opening piece. I have now been converted and can tune into this sound system with eagerness. This is an album of high quality and don't be persuaded otherwise. (Phil Brook)

 

JOI. One & One Is One. Real World CDRW74.

††††††††††† If it's on Real World then you know we're going to be listening to ethnic music - this time Asian traditional music fused to western dance beats. Imagine the Orb or Grid going for an Indian and you may have some idea of what I mean. I'm a little unsure exactly who Joi are, but most of the tracks are credited to F and H Shamsher, but there are a few others involved as well. The opening track, Fingers and track 3: Asian Vibes tends to set out Joi's stall: shuffling breakbeats, Indian percussion and a haunting wail by an Indian woman. Mind you, this isn't that original, the late Pakistani Qwawali master Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was mixing it with the western beat boys years ago. Having said that, Joi have a very commercial sound and I like it, though a little more Indian instrumentation and a little less drum machine would have made the album more varied and interesting. (Phil Brook)

 

ANANDA SHANKER EXPERIENCE AND STATE OF BENGAL. Walking On. Real World. CDRW83.

††††††††††† Most recording on the Real World label have a foreign influence and this album is no exception apart from it being a meeting place between the standard Indian music and western beats. Shanker's career has lasted over 30 years (he unfortunately passed away on the 26th of March) and this is a testimony to his musical ability and the adaptability of embracing the new styles. So he has collaborated with those bhangra Exponents State Of Bengal to give us an 11-track reminder of what is possible. The title track commences the proceedings where the sitar is prominent along with lead electric guitar and muted electronics. The following track Tori has a rock beat onto which Indian instrumentation and flute is added. The tempo changes on the third where a jungle type beat rather emphasises the rest of the instruments and is entitled Pluck. It is not surprising that all the tracks have an Indian music feel and all are without lyrical content. Two of the instrumentals were recorded live including their best known Streets Of Calcutta which probably has the most commercial aspects. As I mentioned earlier, Shanker passed away this year and he has left us a reminder of the musical joys on offer when eastern styles are fused with western beats. (Phil Brook)

 

MILLENNIA NOVA. Slow E-Motion Sightseeing. Virgin. CDVIR106

††††††††††† This is the second album released by Munich based duo of Mathias Neuheuser and Meindl Michi. Neuheuser writes the music and plays all the instruments and Michi deals with the engineering and production. This musical partnership delivers a really beautiful sound especially on the ballads. Most of the eleven tracks are instrumentals, but there are vocal components and two of them feature different singers in which the singing style is rather subdued. The opening title track is a quasi-orchestral 8-min section of sheer beauty. The next piece, So Beautiful has a beat and a lead guitar with reverb that alternates between the left and right speakers. The first vocal section features spoken lyrics by Coppe on a slow sad score. On I'm Dead, a scratchy jazz tinged stage is ideally set for old vocal samples interspersed with the odd hint that something special is about to happen. The piece then performs an amazing transformation into a very modern combination of guitars, drums and electronics where the masterful beats and catchy riffs are to the fore. On Sandman, which is the second vocal track by a guest singer, Natalie Pho-Duc who partly sings and speaks in French and delivers the correct style to make the overall sound somewhat heavenly. Strangely tracks 11 to 13 are not listed, not heard and only last 5 seconds each. The album is a mix of electronica and traditional instruments and this blend is correctly proportioned.Originally released in Germany last year, thankfully a much wider audience will now be given the opportunity to hear Millennia Nova. Please don't waste it. (Phil Brook)

 

VARIOUS. The First Five. Outcaste. CASTE 18CD

††††††††††† To celebrate the first five years of this label, a 15-track compilation album has been assembled to highlight some of the musical milestones from the British Asian dance market. It will not be to everyone's taste, but people who instantly dismiss this style of music will probably miss a very good album. There are three tracks by the Mercury Music Prize nominee Nitin Sawhey, which includes the excellent Migration that was released half a decade ago. The opener features a good remix by Badmarsh and Shri of Mathar by the Dave Pike Set. The vibes set up by the Thievery Corporation are laid back with only the use of sitar contributing to the Asian sound, but the female voice gently soars about the brass infected Lebanese Blonde. The track by the hip hop inspired Up Bustle & Out is very funky and seems almost out of place from expectation, it has the unusual title of Revolutionary Woman Of The Windmill and features a deep bass riff along with rhythms of a Cuban appearance. The most chilled out sounds come from Bonobo where the track Terrapin has many pleasing aspects. The Asian version of the Door's Light My Fire classic has to be heard in which the sitar replaces the main melody. The album finishes with the live version of Tides, in which the piano score and suitable accompaniment confirms that Nitin Sawhney has a great aptitude to live shows. I normally only listen to an album three times whilst reviewing them, yet here is an album that I am enjoying for the fifth time and that must be a very large indicator of quality. (Phil Brook)

 

INNERNATION. The Peel Sessions. Strange Fruit SFRCD 131.

The ingredients are as follows: take three very respectable bands/artists who specialise on African/World dance influences, ask them to record three tracks apiece for Peely, then finally release the results on CD. The bands in question are Transglobal Underground, Fun Da Mental and Loop Guru.

If bland, insipid tunes are your preference, this will probably not be to your liking. Real music lovers who wish to explore the fusion between melodies, rhythm and African style percussion will be more than happy. The phrase rather pleasant is somewhat of an understatement in these circumstances.

Of the three bands features, Loop Guru are the easiest for Western ears, especially the final track, Aphrodites Shoe, which was recorded exclusively for Radio 1. All the session were put together during 1993/94 and as you would imagine, the sound quality is very good. I particularly like the Yalla Chant by TGU, Justice Or Just Defy by Fun Da Mental and all three tracks by Loop Guru. The results are very infectious and boldly require the listener to explore their previous albums. (Phil Brook)

 

JAH WOBBLE. Heaven & Hell. Island. C1D8044 524 168-2.

††††††††††† This bassist first came to my attention when he collaborated with the Orb on the Blue Room. After a couple of albums with The Invaders Of The Heart he released two albums almost together, one with Eno, the other, Heaven & Hell. There are some glorious moments of instrumental music to be heard as Wobble has pilfered the sounds of the orient to make this such a pleasant cd. A Love Song jointly composed with Natacha Atlas of Transglobal Underground provides another facet to his distinctive style. The third track, Dying Over Europe, is very different from the normal Wobble bass lines with its orchestral overtones and following on is Divine Mother, an 11 minute delight in a similar vein. Of particular note is the 15 and a half stupendous moments of Gone To Croatia which includes scratching, sax, flute, shatan and gongs - just one work to describe it - heaven. Unfortunately not everything works so well as Om Namah Shiva is the poorest (perhaps hell), but the rest are fine. His best work to date. (Phil Brook)

 

TRANS GLOBAL UNDERGROUND. Meltdown. Nation NAT 57 CD.

††††††††††† TGV have received critical acclaim for their work, and it is not easy to accept the concept of an album of remixes until the 'producers' names are known: Dreadzone, Kris Needs, Sabres Of Paradise, Drum Club and Youth are amongst the legendary names who have the necessary skills to actually improve on the original concept. The music is instrumental, containing world influences and exceptionally catchy sequences that caused this reviewer to constantly hum the tunes much to the annoyance of colleagues. There are two different mixes of International Times and Temple Head and the Dreadzone version of Lookee Here is brilliant 'cos it introduces dub to this style. It is possible to hear extra depth to these apparently simple melodies which gives the sound a strange uplifting quality. How often can a remixed cd lasting 75 minutes be given a clean bill of health? (Dave W)

 

 

ASIAN DUB FOUNDATION.Facts & Fictions. Nation NAT 58CD.

††† Angry rap lying uneasily on Asian club dub music may prove to be just a little too much for calm minds to appreciate. The Asian Dub Foundation consist of 16 year old Masher D on rap, Pandit G on turntables, Sun J on live sequencing, Chandrasonic on programming, guitar, voice and Dr. Das on programming, bass, and voice. The lyrics are printed although your eyesight will be tested to the limit in attempting to read the fascinating stories interwoven within the 12 featured songs. To illustrate the harsh words on Enough Is Enough, the machine-gun poet sings Immigration must stop, this country bursting at the seams, this country's going to the wogs. The mind will soon recover from the initial shock as the music takes over. Rock colluding with reggae, to bhangra, jungle and dub is as welcome as a breath of fresh air. (Phil Brook)

 

VARIOUS. 110 Below Vol. 1. Journey Into Dub. Below CD1.

††††††††††† In my previous review of Volume 3 of the above, I suggested if Volume 1 was only half as good, then purchase was essential. I have only listened to half the album and my mind is already made up! This in many respects exceeds the quality of music, which is a rather difficult act to proceed. The cd starts with the Killing Jokes' Requiem, remixed by Thrash (Orb) and Greg Hunter, continues with Leftfield's/Lydon's Open Up Sabres Mix and Paul Weller's Kosmos SX Dub 2000 Mix, and ends with Primal Screams' Higher Than The Sun featuring Jah Wobble, mixed by Andrew Weatherall. Impressed - certainly, add Beaumont Hannant, tricky and Massive Attack's version of Mustt Mustt by Nusdrat Fateh Ali Khan and the perfect dub album has just been played on my cd machine. (Phil Brook)

 

NATACHA ATLAS. Halilm. Nation. NATCD 1087

Her voice and style won't please everyone. She is the lead singer TransGlobal Underground and this is the follow up to the acclaimed Diaspora. On Halim, the exploration of Arabic music is the main theme, but don't expect this to be the traditional variety as Atlas uses beat driven global dance as the backdrop. The album is in part dedicated to Abdul Halim Hafez who is the most successful Egyptian singer and may not be easy for the purists to accept. If you are willing to discard any preformed prejudices, the outcome is g. Recorded in Cairo and London with four different producers, the range of material varies from North African and includes those all import western beats. Although none of the songs are sung in english, and my knowledge of Arabic is non existent, I can at least tell the difference between a love song and a tragic one. The variety changes from the uptempo Sweeter Than Any Sweets to the rather quieter Gafsa, which is beautiful and haunting. The final track is an impressive collaboration between a western drum beat and Middle Eastern instrumentation. From being involved with Jah Wobble's Invaders Of The Heart to TransGlobal Underground and now this album, it shows that Atlas has a perfectly trained voice and can write and deliver truly cosmopolitan songs this reviewer will speak proudly of. Whether the masses are quite ready to accept and receive her is very much open to discussion. (Phil Brook).

 

STATE OF GRACE. Everyone Else's Universe. 3rd Stone STONE 028CD

A four piece band from Nottingham with what appears to be at first glance a standard line up of vocals, guitar, drums and keyboards. It has taken five years since formation to achieve the release of their third album and it is a most beautiful affair. The accompanying press release describes the songs as blissed out pop and I agree with it. Sarah Simmonds' voice has that light breathy quality which sounds so natural, so haunting, and if you could drink it you would consume gallons! The opening song is called Conspiracy, and lasts a mammoth 22 minutes, and is split into six definite parts. When it started I thought there didn't seem to be anything special. How wrong to judge an album by just listening to the first few bars. The piece borrows parts of the Cocteau Twins, Deep Forest and binaural soundbites complete with loud noises to create a luscious pop song to remember. Hello has been remixed by Love Brigade to continue the trend of infatuating material. There Are two other remixes of this piece, each quite different, the Exodus mix being the best Nursing the doze of playing time. Although it's not their debut, it is my debut to their music and I like what I hear. (Phil Brook)

 

LOOP GURU. Loop Bites Dog. North South. GURU400CD

Imagine TransGlobal Undergroundís instrumental passages and the musical area of operation by Loop Guru is described albeit very roughly. Infectious rhythms and angelic choirs on a fast drum beat is just for starters on the opening track White Light. The album is split into four differing sections with three tracks under each general heading apart from the last where there are four. The first section is called Blue Bubblegum Pop and the second track Out There is oriental sounding in comparison to the Eastern/Western styles of the third piece Karma Marga, where beautiful female harmonization is to be heard. There is something in their brand of instrumental music that boldly states the easy listening quality yet avoids any thought of veering towards the bland area. I think if there was a selected time of day to play this album, then after dark would be the preferred time. I have already mentioned the infectious nature of this CD and this attribute is aptly shown on Kalibukbuk with the use of some rather sexy sax playing and the mean rolling bass acting as a natural balance to the melodic riffs. The following Jackdaw is somewhat different as it uses cut up beats to make a sound picture. If that was not enough to entice you then the sixth piece Skin Heaven under the general section Purple Heaven has a great beat. The tenth track Single Orphan First Year Camel under the general heading White Quark has more Indian influences and is also one of the more infectious sections of this album. Also found on the next piece Gungaroo are some rather luscious textures that make a very dreamy atmosphere which is worth savoring. The final track called Tam Duugi rounds off this 70 min album with a beautiful orchestrated score. Only now and again does an album exceed expectations and this is one of them. (Phil Brook)

 

GREEN ROOM. Live Trajectories. Leo Lab CD025.

††††††††††† Second album from Green Room. This band is something else. Iím not sure if you remember my review of their debut, but they are a trio (Chick Lyall, David Baird and David Garrett) and continually strive to get the best effects from tapes, voices, prepared piano frames and dulcimers, Chapman stick and sound synthesis. Green Room are what I would describe as a music-less musical band who perform some of the most ethereal and sublime experimental music there is. None of it comes across as aimless noise, this stuff really works well, and to get the same effect live...! At just under an hour, with 8 tracks, Iím not only surprised, but happy as hell that these guys have come up with an album that comes very close to the quality, textures and soundscapes discovered on their debut (also on Leo Lab). (Dave W).

JOI. We Are Three. Real World CDRW92
That second album is always a difficult beast, especially if the previous debut one was well received. We Are Three follows on from One and One and One last year, and continues Joi's exploration of their ethnic roots [Asian music] and contemporary dance music. Again we have big beats throughout, but mixed with field recordings from Bangladesh, and Asian instruments. As before it is a fascinating hybrid of tradition and modernity, west competing with the east. It's also a cracking album of dance music which should appeal to the clubbers. Joi are, or were, the duo of Farook and Haroon Shamsher, but sadly Haroon died after returning from Bangladesh with the field recordings that give this album so much of its colour and life. So as well as marking Joi's rite of passage to the next level it is a tribute to a brother. With track titles such as Journey, Prem, The Holy Side, Deep Asian Vibes and Flying With You, We Are Three does take you on a world-spanning trip. (John P)

VARIOUS. Gifted: Women of the World. Real World CDRWDJX88
Periodically Real World bring out a sampler compilation showcasing new albums and artists on the label. Gifted seems slightly different in that it collects together a selection of their best women artists and is sponsored by a perfume company. That aside, Gifted is a lovely album, featuring artists I've mostly not heard of before: Izzy, Susana Baca, Susheela Raman, Eleftheria Arvanitki, Assitan Mama, Yungchen Lhamo, Sheila Chandra [who I have heard of], and several others. Being a Real World cd the common denominator here is that these performers come from all over the world, so there is a wide diversity of music and vocal styles on show here and all of them dazzle. If this is a mid price or budget release then I reckon Gifted is well worth buying - the return is much better than buying a lottery scratch card! (John P)

KING CHANGO. Same. Luaka Bop 72438-49041-2-8
Now what have we here? Infectious Latin, ska and reggae rhythms, a big brass section and lashings of Latino punk brashness. It's King Chango, an eight piece band that rock, sway and shimmy like shit. Anyone whose opening track on their debut album is called Don't Drop Your Pants is okay with me, I can tell you. This is really great stuff, imagine the best of the British Ska revival - Madness, Bad Manners, Selector, The Specials - all put through the blender and mixed with the finest Latin American ingredients and you'll have some idea of how good this is. It's hi-energy, a real band vibe and no drum machines. I'm not going to single out individual tracks for comment, there's no need to, the whole album is a party happening in real time. Put this on the cd deck, open the tortillas and pass the tequila! (Cool Bunny)

JOI. We Are Three. Real World CDRW92
That second album is always a difficult beast, especially if the previous debut one was well received. We Are Three follows on from One and One and One last year, and continues Joi's exploration of their ethnic roots [Asian music] and contemporary dance music. Again we have big beats throughout, but mixed with field recordings from Bangladesh, and Asian instruments. As before it is a fascinating hybrid of tradition and modernity, west competing with the east. It's also a cracking album of dance music which should appeal to the clubbers. Joi are, or were, the duo of Farook and Haroon Shamsher, but sadly Haroon died after returning from Bangladesh with the field recordings that give this album so much of its colour and life. So as well as marking Joi's rite of passage to the next level it is a tribute to a brother. With track titles such as Journey, Prem, The Holy Side, Deep Asian Vibes and Flying With You, We Are Three does take you on a world-spanning trip. (John P)

VARIOUS. Gifted: Women of the World. Real World CDRWDJX88
Periodically Real World bring out a sampler compilation showcasing new albums and artists on the label. Gifted seems slightly different in that it collects together a selection of their best women artists and is sponsored by a perfume company. That aside, Gifted is a lovely album, featuring artists I've mostly not heard of before: Izzy, Susana Baca, Susheela Raman, Eleftheria Arvanitki, Assitan Mama, Yungchen Lhamo, Sheila Chandra [who I have heard of], and several others. Being a Real World cd the common denominator here is that these performers come from all over the world, so there is a wide diversity of music and vocal styles on show here and all of them dazzle. If this is a mid price or budget release then I reckon Gifted is well worth buying - the return is much better than buying a lottery scratch card! (John P)

KING CHANGO. Same. Luaka Bop 72438-49041-2-8
Now what have we here? Infectious Latin, ska and reggae rhythms, a big brass section and lashings of Latino punk brashness. It's King Chango, an eight piece band that rock, sway and shimmy like shit. Anyone whose opening track on their debut album is called Don't Drop Your Pants is okay with me, I can tell you. This is really great stuff, imagine the best of the British Ska revival - Madness, Bad Manners, Selector, The Specials - all put through the blender and mixed with the finest Latin American ingredients and you'll have some idea of how good this is. It's hi-energy, a real band vibe and no drum machines. I'm not going to single out individual tracks for comment, there's no need to, the whole album is a party happening in real time. Put this on the cd deck, open the tortillas and pass the tequila! (Cool Bunny)

VARIOUS. Flamenco & Brasil. Spectrum 544 600-2 & 544 450-2.

Two new world music albums from Spectrum, a kind of budget label from the massive Universal company. If nothing else, Spectrum releases are usually decently priced, so you can always try these out without having to remorgage the house. The more accessible one is bound to be the Flamenco one, if only it's probably more often heard, due mainly because there's still loads of folks go to Spain for their holidays. And whilst there's a few who wouldn't know the difference between flamenco and a flamingo, they will now. On the Flamenco, for those who might well know these people, you get the likes of Ketama, Camaron Linares, Manola Sanlucar, Paco De Lucia, and Pata Negra. Hell, this Flamenco is furiously good. The Brasil album contains artists such as Elle Regine, Bossa Tres, Gal Costa, Jorge Ben and Gilberto Gil. This album is in some respects a lot more colourful and does paint a lively and furiously active picture of Brasil. So it's up to you, although as I've said, the price of these, I think, are pretty decent, so why not try the both of them. Both will sound good when you're on the sunbed getting ready for that holiday. (Slapper Jack).


KING CHANGO. The Return Of El Santo. Virgin/Luaka Bop LBCD35

This cd came in a plain cover (it's usually called a promo - ed!) so I have no idea who or how many make up King Chango. That aside, I can tell you they play a vibrant, joyful mix of Latin, ska, reggae, and rock, with a little sly rapping on the top. But primarily this is music from the Latin side of America. The Return Of El Santo has twelve tracks, all of them great for parties - they'll get anyone up on their feet for a jig or three [even me, I suspect!]. If you can get your head around Buster Bloodvessel's Bad Manners adding Latin to their ska mix then this how King Chango sound. If you don't fall under the spell of opening track Finalmente then I doubt that you'll like this album - every track is a self contained party just waiting to happen... Put another way, if we were having the summer we should have and there was a barbecue on every street corner this is the album that should be the soundtrack to that scene. (Johnny Boy)


VARIOUS ARTISTS. Celtic Airs. Lockshare Recording. CDLDS 7001

Here are 14 wonderful songs with luscious melodic textures and soft harmonies, but above all they have a relaxing mood. Titles like Sprit of the Glen, The Hills of Lorne, Dreams of a Child, The Long Road Home and The Quiet Place sets the mood without a note being played. These laments by such respected artists as 'Tabache and Ingrid', and Allan Henderson sets the tone of what is a very pleasing album. My favourite is track seven which is played on bagpipes by Chris Armstrong. This is actually a sampler as each track is taken from other albums that you can get from Lockshore Recordings. Beautiful Celtic Airs from some of Scotland's leading folk artists. (Slartbardfast)

DAVID BYRNE. Look Into The Eyeball. Real World CDVUS189.

David Byrne has had an extremely varied career since leaving Talking Heads all those years ago. Most importantly, like Peter Gabriel, he's championed musicians from other cultures [what the suits call "World Music"] by setting up his own label Luaka Bop. Still, there's time for a solo career too, and Look Into The Eyeball is his latest solo album. Anyone expecting something in the vein of Talking heads will be disappointed - Look Into The Eyeball is extremely easy on the ear, bringing together slick production values, a set of beautiful songs and a strong afro/latin weaving in and out of the tracks. Though that skewed view of the world and playful use of unusual time signatures remain. One other thing, Byrne's voice was always wayward in holding a note, he could be Jonathan Richman's cousin in that respect, but his voice is very controlled on this album, and I swear he's even crooning on a track or two! Highlight tracks are UB Jesus, Revolution, Everyone's In Love With You, Like Humans Do, Desconcido Soy, Neighbourhood - to be honest, there isn't a sub standard track! I really like this album, Byrne has matured and is now hitting the heart with his songs and not just the brain as in the TH days. (HAL)


MUSHROOM. Foxy Music. Clearspot CS 049/EFA 05430-2.

In small print it asks, The Future Of Jazz? Well, as we all know, nothing's new under the Sun, Mushroom have done something rather clever here. A few years ago this may well have been called Acid jazz, but I'm not sure what's happened to that name now, maybe it's not trendy. Ah well, jazz is jazz is jazz, and Mushroom have combined the funkier elements of bits of Schifrin, Lewis and there's even the odd wink towards a bit of fusion. If you've always had a taste for decent jazz of this ilk, then no matter how much repackaging and renaming goes on, it's still bloody good stuff. I can perhaps understand that marketing something a little bit different will maybe attract a new audience, but the more I listen to this album, the more I'm reminded of what fusion might well have grown into if Davis didn't do it to death. This is a cracking album, full of some great jazz, especially I Got Blisters On My Fingers (answers on a postcard as to where this was first blurted out?), Terry 6 Jerry, I Had Some Dreams They Were Clouds In My Coffee. There's obviously more than the odd pun or two within the titles on here, but it's late, and I'm tired, and all I want to do is go out listening to Mushroom (makes a change from eating the buggers, eh!). (Killer Joe).