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Trance Planet 1
Trance Planet 1
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 25.95
7 used & new from CDN$ 4.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good sampler of diverse world music, Feb. 23 2004
This review is from: Trance Planet 1 (Audio CD)
"Trance Planet Volume 1" is one of those rare world music compilations that you can leave in your CD player from beginning to end. The range of cultures brought together here is pretty impressive: from Cape Verde to Tahiti, Mozambique to Argentina.
One of the standout tracks is the very first one: "Nwahulwana" by Orchestra Marrabenta Star de Mocambique, fading in with a simple guitar melody before the rich solo vocal begins. Other favorites of mine include "Two Lovers" by sitar virtuoso Ali Akbar Khan (a song which takes its time to build momentum, just like sitar playing itself), the melancholy acoustic guitar-driven Portuguese-sung "Sodade" by the 'Verdean Barefoot Diva' Caesaria Evora, and the outstanding oud-playing in Hassan Erraji's "Hammouda."
There are other tracks which I don't really care for and are too hackneyed in the "world fusion" genre for my taste, such as "Petition To Ram" by Jai Uttal, and the over-produced "The Game" by the late Pakistani qawwali maestro Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (this track in true essence should be credited to the studio producer, since Khan's voice is completely underutilized and taken completely out of any true qawwali or raag context).
That said, even the lesser songs somehow work when the CD is played altogether on a rainy Sunday afternoon while you're reading the newspaper. It flows pretty well, which must be credited to Tom Schnabel for having a great ear to patch so many disparate sounds into one listenable disc.
Before world music compilations kicked it up a notch with the Putamayo and Buddha Bar series (and similar albums), Trance Planet was the best thing around. "Volume 1" isn't really anything you'd hear playing at any trendy "multi-culti lounge", but something you'd probably hear at the coffeehouse down the street. Definitely give this disc a shot if the global journey you want to take is a smooth and mellow one.

A History of Pakistan and Its Origins
A History of Pakistan and Its Origins
by Christoph Jaffrelot
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 97.04
15 used & new from CDN$ 21.66

5.0 out of 5 stars Most comprehensive and objective book on Pakistan out today, Feb. 7 2004
Every since September 11th, countless books about Pakistan have been published, each scrutizing its history as nothing but a state bent on growing the seeds of Islamic fundamentalism. This book is a welcome contrast, and hats off to Jaffrelot, a Frenchman, and his team for doing an extensive amount of research about the initial foundations of the country, all of the political tumult, the events leading to Bangladeshi secession and the tense relationship with India, the role as a proxy during the Cold War, the constitutional straying from Jinnah's secular vision, and an invaluable lesson in ethnography and religion, described in much more detail than the average book on the country (for example, not only does it describe Sunnism and Shi'ism as being the two main branches of Islam practiced in the country, it delves into subsets and sub-subsets of each branch, so that the reader gets a much better understanding of the incredible religious diversity within the Pakistani Muslim community itself). The main compliment I have about this book is that it remains extremely academic and objective. Never is it written in an alarmist way, and it doesn't favor one political movement over another. It refrains from sugarcoating any misdeeds of the government, the army, or the population, yet at the same time, it doesn't resort to demonizing the nation, either. It just states how things are over there now, and how things were in the past. It is a much more fascinating and educational read (for Pakistanis and non-Pakistanis alike) than other "Beware Pakistan!" types written by so-called Western "experts" on the region who try to make the reader believe that the entire country is one big madrassah intent to destroying the United States (far from it), or "Pakistan - The Glorious" types written by heavily biased Pakistani writers who believe that every single thing wrong within the country is due to a "foreign hand." If you would like to get a good base knowledge about the dynamics of this country caught within an extremely tumultuous global political game, put this book at the top of the list.

White Ladder
White Ladder
Price: CDN$ 16.30
45 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Wish all current singers were as real as this guy, Feb. 7 2004
This review is from: White Ladder (Audio CD)
David Gray has always impressed me with his ability to remain completely genuine in his rise to fame. His music, and especially his lyrics, have never suffered in order to make himself more palatable to the pop-listening masses. "White Ladder" is his most "studio" album to date, yet the instrumentation is still spare enough to not be overpowering. You can really feel the lyrics in his voice, starting with the opening track, "Please Forgive Me", a great rolling song with a pace just subtle enough to ease you into the rest of the album. Two different versions of his biggest U.S hit, "Babylon", are listed here - both with a different enough sound for the listener to appreciate each. The mood on the album is introspective and at times melancholy, but upon finishing the album, the listener never feels depressed or drained. You still finish the CD with a smile on your face - a testament to David Gray's incredible talent as a singer, songwriter, and musician. A definite thumbs up.

Próxima estación: Esperanza
Próxima estación: Esperanza
Price: CDN$ 22.04
15 used & new from CDN$ 7.10

5.0 out of 5 stars Journey by train, Manu style, Feb. 6 2004
I'm a huge fan of Mano Negra and Manu Chao and it's been interesting to see how the sound has evolved over the years. "Clandestino" is an immense solo album, and "Proxima Estacion:Esperanza", while lacking some of the spiritual depth of the first effort, is still a great album exploring different themes. The whole CD sounds like a journey, and is a great CD to add to your road trip collection. Manu definitely takes a lighter approach mood-wise with this album compared to "Clandestino", which is refreshing - otherwise we'd have "Clandestino II". Still, the tracks are standouts in their own Manu way. "Denia" isn't full of Middle Eastern instruments, yet with the minimal vocals, Arabic calling, smooth guitar and steam whistles somehow I feel like I'm on a train in Morrocco anyway. "Papito" is nothing but silliness, and there's nothing wrong with that. Not every song has to be talking about the plight of the world for him to prove he's "matured" as an artist. He does take the musical background of "Bongo Bong" and instill it in a number of tracks here ("Mr.Bobby" & "Homens"), and the music starting with "La Primavera" (a track that I prefer over the hit "Me Gustas Tu") continues throughout the CD as well. There could have been a bit more originality there, but needless to say, there's some great laughs, some high energy, and some mellow moments, which makes this definitely one of the CDs that travels with me whenever I go anywhere. I wish I knew all 5 languages (Spanish, French, Portuguese, Arabic, English) that appeared on this album (I only know 3), but that doesn't take away from enjoying Manu at his zany best. Hope another one comes soon...

Passion Music For Last Tempta
Passion Music For Last Tempta
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 25.95
6 used & new from CDN$ 19.54

5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting & uplifting, this is Peter Gabriel's magnum opus, Feb. 6 2004
There are many CDs out there that tap into world rythms and create a "fusion" sound which usually ends up as fun music to dance to or as Yanni-esque muzak. Never has a CD been able to stir more emotion in the listener than this one - from beginning to end, "Passion" is such an incredible journey, a trek in both a far-off land and within your own imagination. The way the first track "The Feeling Begins" crescendos, it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end upon first listen. Throughout the CD, studio-created sounds combine with Middle Eastern rythms and instruments, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's haunting voice and the Viennese Boys' Choir chilling harmonies to lead you into feelings from anger to disillusionment to disgrace and to redepemption, all without any real lyrics or jarring transitions. The flow of emotion is so subtle that you just keep moving forward with the CD, not paying any attention to track numbers. Gabriel succeeded in creating a soundtrack in which you don't even need to connect it to the movie - I have owned this CD since 1992 and to this day, it is still one of my all-time favorites. Very highly recommended.

Coming Up
Coming Up
Price: CDN$ 8.80
30 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A teaser for great things to come, Feb. 5 2004
This review is from: Coming Up (Audio CD)
Ozomatli is undoubtedly an incredible live act with enough energy onstage to light up a large city. Their blend of musical sounds (hip-hop, funk, rock, folklorico, norteno, etc. etc.) is really unique, and the passion they have in their singing is indisputable. So, with that, they released this brilliant 6-song EP as a follow up to their outstanding "Embrace the Chaos." The CD grabs your attention from the very beginning, with "Pensando En Mi Vida", which has a classic Ozo sound. "Let Me Dream" is somewhat of an anomaly, as its entirely sung in English, yet somehow it works (it takes some getting used if you're a longtime Ozo listener). It's got a smooth groove to it, and the vocals work, unlike many other Spanish-singing bands trying to break into the English-speaking market. "Esa Morena" is a great song to dance to with a beautiful girl at your side, and "Ya Viene El Sol" is bound to become a classic Ozo song. I saw the band perform this track live at a packed show at the Fillmore in Dec. '03 and it was incredible, and remarkably, the CD version doesn't lack any of that energy. This EP is by far the best buy for the price of most releases I've seen out today. Each and every song is a winner (another rarity). Highly recommended.

Kinky
Kinky
Offered by FastMedia "Ships From USA"
Price: CDN$ 23.28
8 used & new from CDN$ 1.71

5.0 out of 5 stars A great original, Feb. 5 2004
This review is from: Kinky (Audio CD)
After listening to their disappointing sophomore album, "Atlas", I was compelled to write about how great Kinky's debut effort actually is. This album is all about unabashed creativity, while not trying to target any specific market. The sound is all over the map - you'd like to put it in some neat little category but it won't fit there. It doesn't fit anywhere, and that's what's great about it. Full of energy, with electric guitars, conga drums, electro-beats, the occasional vocoder, goofy Spanish lyrics, it's hard not to get a buzz listening to this CD. Not only do their songs sound like they could be used in commercials, they ARE used in commercials (ie. "Mas" used for the Nissan Altima). I've seen these guys live and they pumped even more energy into their songs than what was on the CD, which is hard to believe, and this made listening to "Atlas" (which I was initially really excited about) all the more disappointing. Regardless, "Kinky" will stay as one my road-trip favorites for a long time to come.

Ciao, America!: An Italian Discovers the U.S.
Ciao, America!: An Italian Discovers the U.S.
by Beppe Severgnini
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.55
80 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Lost In Translation, Feb. 5 2004
I picked up "Ciao America!" as one of my flatmates is from Italy, and I was thinking it was going to be a great satirical, sarcastic view of a foreigner living in America. Instead, for the most part, it was over-simplistic and too general in its writing and over-exaggerated in its complaints (even though I'm far from being an apologist of American social behavior). Mostly it was fairly shallow observations from someone who I heard was an extremely introspective and intelligent author. My flatmate assured me that he writes much better in Italian as he's less confident in translating his witticisms into English, so I guess his works in English will always leave something lacking. There were some chuckles in this book, but as far as satirical social observations go, I wouldn't put this near the front of the pack.

e: A Novel
e: A Novel
by Matt Beaumont
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.27
69 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just what the doctor ordered..., Feb. 5 2004
This review is from: e: A Novel (Paperback)
Having worked in an office full of gossip and passive-aggressive agendas, every single character in "e" was easy for me to picture. The idea of writing the book as a collection of emails is brilliant, as is the huge dose of sarcasm that the British are known for. I read this book in 2 days, since once the story got rolling, it was hard for me to stop. Good fun.

Diwan (Frn)
Diwan (Frn)
Price: CDN$ 16.39
19 used & new from CDN$ 6.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Let the desert party begin..., Feb. 5 2004
This review is from: Diwan (Frn) (Audio CD)
"Diwan" is a really rich album - a great way to introduce others to rai music without losing itself to Western studio overproduction. Some other readers' comments seem confusing to me. 6 minutes too long for a song? Obviously that person isn't familiar with traditional Arabic music where songs can go on for what seem like eons. Of course, "Ya Rayah" is the anchor to this album - the one song (if any of Taha's) that anyone would know, but the other's are just as good. I enjoy the change in tempo and intensity of "Habina", and the good times that "Ida" seems to evoke. Rachid's voice is raw and unmodified, which makes the songs all the more genuine. "Diwan" is definitely a keeper, and also is his most consistent album.

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