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VA Putumayo Kids Presents 26 Albums Collection 19992011

Permanent Wave: A Collection of Tomorrow's Favorites by Today's Bands on Yesterday's Vinyl [Epic, 1979]"Television Generation" and "Just Another Teenage Anthem" never really got me as singles, and neither the Kursaal Flyers nor New Hearts proved deep enough to make good albums, but on this pop punk compilation they sound absolutely ace. Masterswitch's "Action Replay," the Cortinas' "Heartache," and the Vibrators' "Judy Says" also fit in. The Diodes' "Red Rubber Ball" is as useless as every other piece of Toronto punk I've heard. Since they also lead off the group's new collection on domestic Epic, the two nice cuts by the Only Ones are redundant. The teaser by the Spikes is good enough to make me hope they record an album. And the teaser by After the Fall is so good that I won't mind owning it twice when their album comes out. Quite snazzy, recommended to dabblers and discophiles alike. B+

VA Putumayo Kids Presents 26 Albums Collection 19992011

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The Great Rap Hits [Sugarhill, 1980]Well, not exactly. This expedient collection is why Sugarhill changed over from fabrications like Sequence and the Sugarhill Gang itself to street-dance kids like the Funky Four Plus One, half of whose Enjoy debut, "Rappin and Rocking the House," brings up side one. The slight shift of gears is almost startling--the real party people stay a split second ahead of the beat, while such creatures of the sixteen-track as Super Wolf and Lady B. lag cunningly or uncomprehendingly behind. Still, not a one of these six cuts is without charm--by mining the dozens and God knows what else for boasts, insults, and vernacular imagery, Sylvia Inc. could convince anybody but party people that rap is really about words. A-

That's the Way I Feel Now: A Tribute to Thelonious Monk [A&M, 1984]At first this ambitious two-disc multiple-artist memorial to the greatest composer of the post-World War II era left me cold--be nice if a few kids got pulled in by Joe Jackson or Todd Rundgren, but I'd been a Monk fan since the '50s. And indeed, I still prefer Monk's Monk to anybody else's, so much so that the discography here has me expanding my collection. But only Donald Fagen's synthesizers and John Zorn's weirdnesses approach the level of desecration jazzbos discern, and more often the extravagantly good-humored (NRBQ) or carnivalesque (Dr. John) or obvious (Chris Spedding) rock interpretations are instructive alongside the subtler, more reverential readings of Steve Lacy, Barry Harris, Sharon Freeman. In short, when I feel like Monk, occasionally I may play this. A-

Journeys by DJ: Billy Nasty Mix [Moonshine Music, 1993]An English DJ's one-cut, 78-minute set, comprising healthy swatches of 19 technohouse instrumentals. Despite occasional overdubbing and lots of switching back and forth, Nasty's basic strategy is to lay the best parts end to end and make you like it, and although I must have encountered some of these songs on ordinary dance comps, all I can tell you is that they're long on bass lines, midrange coloration, and vocal sound effects--and that they sound great whenever you tune in. For years hardcore dancers have been complaining that compilations and single-artist albums don't do their experience justice--the songs remain too discrete. The few street and private tapes I've heard don't live up to the fantasy, and a second volume in this series, The Stress Compilation, is more like an ordinary house collection. But this--this is sort of what they're talking about. Bravo. A-

MTV Party to Go, Vol. 4 [Tommy Boy, 1993]At the same moment Vol. 3 convinces me I can live forever without "Baby Got Back," Mary J. Blige, "I'm Too Sexy," the simultaneous Vol. 4 firms up my affection for "They Want Efx," En Vogue, and "Give It Away" (I kind of dig "Baby-Baby-Baby" too) (and hey, "Hip Hop Hooray" and "Back to the Hotel" are cool, and "Jump" and RuPaul you know about). It's enough to renew my faith in confluences of taste--sometimes even dance disposables sort out. So what if the higher-grade collection mines higher-grade albums--these are remixes, right? Kris Kross's has Super Cat on it. Fun. A-

Kwaito: South African Hip Hop [Sterns/Earthworks, 2000]Where the Jo'burg disco of late apartheid was not-for-export schlock, this lowbrow party fodder, more "Jack Your Body" than "Bring the Noise," sounds like independence music. I'm not sure what makes it go. The southern African pulse, so much heavier on the four-on-the-floor than the equatorial polyrhythm? The entrepreneurial thrill of artist-owned labels? Township kids feeling like their own people? Dumb luck? All I know is that this compilation moves like one of those flukey dance albums that makes you keep on loving the same trick-electro riff plus raggaqanga bass plus southern African chant and chorus. Is it conscious, as they say? A little, sometimes--Arthur's "Kaffir" sure puts the kibosh on the K-word. Note, however, that the one that preaches "Together we are one under the sun" is entitled "Make Em Bounce." A-

Gimme Indie Rock V. 1 [K-Tel, 2001]If U.K. Virgin's Best Punk Album in the World . . . Ever! was the ultimate K-Tel joke, this must be the postultimate. Reducing an anti/post-commercial movement/tendency to 30 putatively/frequently catchy songs, it represents indie far more accurately than Michael Azerrad's severe rockism--boys and a few girls, Yanks and a few furriners, talents and a few geniuses, guitars and a few synths, ugly and pretty and both at once. Half the bands released good albums once and a few still do. Most of these are in print if anything strikes your fancy, though the track that takes you home may not lead you to the album that'll pay the rent. Traces of a world gone by. Intimations of the one we live in now. A-

New York Rocks [Koch, 2005]Some might carp that this efficient little celebration of New York punk is both too obvious and too obscure. Ramones-Velvets-Patti Smith-Television-Richard Hell? Go for the albums, five unchallenged classics. The Mumps' "Crocodile Tears?" Why not the Contortions' "Contort Yourself"? Or anything by the New York Dolls? Nevertheless, the famous songs gather force back to back, and despite the Mumps, compiler Bill Crowley has mixed in some canny arcana. Mink DeVille-Dead Boys-Suicide? Skip the albums. All told, the disc evokes a scene worthy of that stupid term almost as well as closer Wayne (now Jayne) Country: "The kids are jumpin' around everybody's doin' loop-de-loop/Just makin' the rounds like a speed freak in a telephone booth." [Blender: 4]

The Rough Guide to Acoustic Africa [World Music Network, 2013]At this point in history, acoustic is the opposite of authentic in Africa--at least the kind of acoustic that gets near a recording studio. The 16 artists scattered across this collection include tourist bands, factitious folk ensembles, moonlighting dance musicians looking for a payday, academics, and loads of expats. They tend genteel and their albums can be snoozefests. But you can bet every one has the sense to polish up a few tuneful show-stoppers, and assume that Rough-Guide-in-Chief Phil Stanton has found them. Normally I get annoyed when Afrocomps skip from Niger to Madagascar 'cause it's all one big happy continent. But the aesthetic here is so pretty and soft-spoken it rarely matters. Assured, calculated, innocent, and sometimes sublime. A- 350c69d7ab


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