It’s from Putumayo — expect nothing less than for it to do exactly what it says on the tin. They keep coming, these user-friendly compilations from this most resolutely uncool of brands.
Treading a familiar path of short, snappy compilations of tracks similar in style and pace, they appear designed to strike the balance between pleasant background music for your favourite coffee-shop or fair-trade store and agreeable party music for the tastefully eclectic.
Unfair? Well, the good people who put them together are entitled to say “who cares?” because the formula is flying in face of declining world music CD sales as their popularity soars. It’s easy to see why with this latest mix of Latin American styles from a worldwide selection of artists, because there’s hardly a duff track amongst them. Even better, there are one or two real revelations.
New York’s Yerba Buena are at this year’s WOMAD at Rivermead, and if their bouncy mix of cumbia, Cuban and reggae on El Burrito is anything to go by, they’ll be putting on a great party there. Another highlight is provided by Colombian Latino nostalgia-merchants La-33, who recall the golden age of 60s descarga and salsa with a sinuous number driven by a punchy horn arrangement straight out of the old school.
And Paris-based Cuban Raul Paz is represented by Mua Mua Mua his short-but-sweetly-singable celebration of a special female called Cristina. Some other familiar names are here in the form of another WOMAD attendee, Spanish Harlem Orchestra as well as Puerto Rico’s Gabriel Ros, now based in Belgium, and imbuing his catchy boogaloo sound with some atmospheric European sonic styling.
Overall then, even allowing for a handful of nice but hardly world-changing tunes, the Putumayo magic wand has yet again been waved, producing a selection to once again confound snobs and delight ‘ordinary’ punters in equal measure.
This review was first published on Fly:-