Where better to start than Volume One of the ever expanding Ethiopiques series? I have an ex-girlfriend to thank for turning me on to this music. This outburst of sound from a liberalising Ethiopia in the late 60s to mid 70s is the most original music I have heard in years. Volume 1 showcases five vocalists, including Mahmoud Ahmed, who additionally has three Ethiopiques cds devoted to him alone. I'm not a great one for non-English vocals, unless it's Stereolab, but here the heartfelt and incantatory vocals only add to what is the strangest mix of music you are likely to hear. The first thing to understand is that these are seasoned Ethiopian big band jazz musicians who have been turned on to electric Miles Davis and the funk of James Brown backing superb vocalists and fine uplifting or melancholic tunes. It is very hard to describe this remarkable and accessible music - a track, on a soul jazz compilation called Universal Sounds of America, by the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Fontella Bass which shows what jazz virtousi playing soul sounds like; the declamatory anthems of Burning Spear as backed by the Buddy Rich Big Band perhaps gets somewhere close. There are additionally three instrumentals which, in my review of the Best of Ethiopiques I perhaps unkindly implied were musical filler, which are lovely psychedelic jazz on top of laid back insistent rhythms. One of the marvellous features of so much of this music is the tantalisingly out of reach snippets of western music - is that a Phil Lesh bassline? Or maybe it's influenced by a classic reggae riddim? Or there could be a spoonful of The Electric Prunes' I had too much to dream last night. The Brotherhood of Breath at their riffing best, a dollop of Fela Kuti. It really is impossible to describe. If any of the above touch your musical bases I would strongly recommend dipping you toes into Ethiopiques with this wonderful volume.