Charlie Gillett's compilations of the best of each year's music from across the world, up until his sad death a few years ago, were/are for me the best of the best you could pay money for. I've always listened to them in excitement and wonder - I don't know any of these artists, maybe heard of some of the others, and even looking through the liner notes doesn't prepare you for what you might find yourself hearing next. They feel to me less of a collection, more of a mixtape - a whole jumble of styles and songs, put together by affection, thought and love.
That's why I've relished these collections - check out my review for Sound of the World 2005, among my favourite compilations of all time. But somehow World 2004 doesn't reach that mark for me. Like another reviewer's mentioned, there's not really any oomph/wow-factor to many of the tracks here, that it's a poor selection even from artists capable of producing great things like Ojos de Brujo. Don't get me wrong, it's not that any of the material is bad - it just isn't anything spectacular or particularly memorable.
First thing's first though: among the highlights are Think of One's Grito Grande, a beautiful match of Belgian brass with Brazilian local rhythms, Souad Massi's blistering Yaw'lidi, the hypnotic grooves of Aiwa's Oudaiwa, and on the slower side, Dona Rosa's Resineiro and Sidestepper's Dame Te Querer. It seems though that Gillett's choice is to go with more mellow tracks rather than any big, uptempo numbers like Sound of the World 2005 is filled with. Most of Disc 2 is filled back to back with these more mellow, lighter numbers - Lojo and Django, Chava Albertsein, G. Testa - all back to back, and only seems to pick up pace once DJ Dolores and JJC and the 419 Squad kick in with their slices of Brazilian dance music and Nigerian hip hop respectively.
This could just be me talking though - I tend to look for music with 'soul'/'mojo', something which startles or excites or if it's slower, more pained or carefully constructed, but there's little on this compilation which does either. There are also some pretty questionable choices. Fat Marley's 'Xin' is terribly boring, virtually nothing happening to the same mix for 5 minutes. I may sound like a prude here, but Amorf Orgoduk's Parti Lany sounds nothing more than any old disco/party number, and there's not much about it that sounds 'Hungarian' - then again, Markschneider Kunst are hardly doing anything Russian on their track!
It's also the more amazing since I know that 2003/4 was a good year for world music - check out the BBC Awards compilation to see the range of talent that was around. Releases from Nitin Sawhney, Trilok Gurtu, Seu Jorge, Camille, Tony Allen (which would have been a better choice of an Afrobeat number than 'Je M'Appelle Kiala') - why didn't any of these make the cut? Overall though, an interesting album serving as a good introduction to a lot of new names - but little pizazz in general. The other World/Sound of the World hit that 'target' better than this 2-disc comp does.
I have all the Charlie Gillett collections and I mean it when I say ALL of them are a must have for those truly interested in the wide world of music. As with the others in the series, however, some tracks are more up my street than others. The pearls in this collection include the stunning Simon Diaz track 'Tonada del Cabastrero', Gianmaria Testa's 'Dentro al Cinema' and the surprising delight of 'Le Toi de Moi' by Carla Bruni, of all people. Who'd have believed it!