NEW ON CD
Cross-cultural collection boasts some eclectic gems
"One World, Many Cultures"
Various artists (Putumayo World Music)
BASICALLY, the first half of this latest compilation from the world music label is the stronger, containing perfect cross-cultural songs that are easy collaborations that work within an agreeable middle ground. With the exception of the Israeli-Ethiopian artist Idan Raichel (whose "Come to Me" can also be found on his U.S. debut on the Putumayo imprint Cumbancha Records), most of the songs are Euro-African in nature, with a couple of American duets.
The lilting harplike sound of the African kora plays a major part in two of the collection's better songs: on "A United Earth," which pairs up veteran Breton harpist Alan Stivell with Senegalese singing star Youssou N'Dour and, my personal favorite, a magical rendition of a old Taj Mahal tune, "Queen Bee," featuring the singer-steel resonator guitarist and, hailing from Mali, Toumani Diabaté and Ramata Diakité.
Reggae also figures into "One World ..." with a fine duet between two singing legends, Toots Hibbert and Willie Nelson, on the latter's "Still Is Still Moving to Me," and Ziggy Marley exhorts Algerian rai star Cheb Mami on on the up-tempo "Madanite."
"A Brokedown Melody"
Original soundtrack (Brushfire Records)
"KEEP PADDLING" is the message behind this documentary, which is getting a wider DVD release in stores this month. The main attraction of its soundtrack are two new songs from Jack Johnson, the lovely "Home" and the local, laid-back sounds of "Sung," where Johnson shares vocal duties with his friends Matt Costa and Zach Gill. An acoustic version of "Breakdown," first heard on Johnson's "In Between Dreams" album, is included here as well.
Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder also chimes in, accompanied by the gentle strum of his ukulele, on the previously unreleased song "Goodbye." (It's something we might hear more of when he and the band play here early next month.) Costa also contributes a new acoustic song, "The Road."
There's also a fair share of some interesting selections here. The Norwegian folk-pop duo Kings of Convenience offer up a lovely bit of "Know How" that also includes the fetching vocals of Leslie Feist. There's also a slice of reggae heaven dating back from 1980, "We Need Love" from the soulful Johnny Osbourne, the wasted feel of "Needles in My Eyes" from Britain's Beta Band, and from the late Argentine bandoneon master Astor Piazzolla, a swinging remix of his "Vuelvo al Sur," combining the accordionlike instrument, vibraphone and even a bit of whistling.