Top critical review
Charlie delivers - but it doesn't really excite...
on 19 December 2014
I'm coming to this compilation well after it first came out, slowly working my way through all the Sound of the World compilations I can lay my hands on (check out my reviews for World 2004 and Sound of the World 2005). It's my belief that Charlie's compilations really were - and still are - the best world music compilations on the market, and this one proves no different. A fantastic 2-CD collection, gathering together artists nominated for the BBC World Music Awards 2007 and unknowns, those who missed out or still haven't quite 'hit it' big time - but who all have a mighty sound to them.
It's lovely, but it's just far too slow overall - the pace never quite picks up right from Kobo Town's 'Abatina' through to the end. Most of the songs are soft rockers, mellow and gentle. Charlie, as he stated here, always tries to get the right 'balance' in his selections, but it really ends up being an album you could only put on in a mellow mood, eg. post-midnight, rather than a variety of flavours, as in Sound of the World 2005 (still the best comp in my opinion).
The gems here come mainly from South America: Jorge Drexler (now gathering up awards and prizes) with his radical interpretation of Los Titas' 'Disneylandia', a beautiful meditation on what it means to live in a globalised world, and one of those songs that will never quite leave me once you've heard it. Axel Krygier's 'Donde Estaras Hermanita' is a hugely eccentric and weirded-out piece of Latin psychedelic fusion, with all instruments played by Axel himself. Other South American delights are DJ Rupture remixing Fosforo's 'Musquito' with a Zimbabewean guitar lick, and Ceu's snail-paced but sensual 'Bobagem'.
Elsewhere, 'Abatina' is a great choice to open the album with - a slow burning groover, revealing the sad fate of Bettina of whom 'few were inclined to believe her'. Soha shines on 'C'est Bien Mieux Comme Ca', and the female vocalist on Burkina Electric's 'Mdole' equally dazzles. I'm also slowly getting seduced by Awaadi's 'Sunagaal' (made clearer by Charlie's trans. of the lyrics in the booklet), Rajery's incredible performance on 'Mandehandeha' (again, read the booklet to find out why) and Feryal Oney's 'Aynali Koruk', definitely a party piece with all the whoops and cackles going on in the background!
But overall, a mostly slow album, nothing inspiring or anything which can jump out at you, unlike previous World compilations. I have a feeling things have changed too since the album was taken under the wing of Warner Classics & Jazz - there are pauses between tracks, rather than, as Hemisphere or Virgin allowed, one track to roll into the next, like some continuous mix.
I don't understand why the reviews went mad for 'Beautiful in Beaufort Wes' by Gert Vlok Nel - it's one of the most boring songs I've heard (though, then again, I'm not a Country and Western person personally). Toumani Diabete is excellent, though 'Ismael Drame' nearly sent me to sleep halfway through the first disc. 'Cha Cha' by Fufu-Ai is pretty unremarkable and Madilu System could have definitely been better represented than with 'Jalousie'. Simphiwe Dana stood out for me - I've since been an avid listener of her work in more detail, and am stunned why she hasn't picked up more awards and recognition. The cut of 'BantU Biko Street' included here doesn't do justice to her - go and have a listen to the original on the album of the same name.
Overall, a great compilation, a big weaving together of styles, ideas and musicians from across the world - but nothing arresting, which'd make you stop in your tracks or perhaps change your listening habits around. A very kind 3/5!