Heart of the Congos
Blood and Fire
Given that most of what passes for rhythm and blues today has neither, the reissue of this 20-year-old reggae masterpiece by the sublime vocal duo the Congos is a reminder and a godsend. One of the most crucial reggae albums ever made, Heart of the Congos is soul music that transcends boundaries. Recorded by Lee "Scratch" Perry at his historical Black Ark studio in Kingston, the falsetto of Cedric Myton and the baritone of Roydel Johnson--backed by Jamaica's finest--ooze enough humanity over wicked rhythms to last well into the next millennium. The harmonies of "Fisherman" and the jungle rhythm of "Congoman" alone are spiritual paradise, like the lavishly packaged CD with its thick booklet and extra CD of extended mixes and songs.
If Peter Gabriel is primarily responsible for introducing (third) world music to the West, Loop Guru takes it a step past his cool, academic detachment on Amrita, mixing the most joyous ethnic elements with techno-trance rhythms. Living in multicultural London, the members of Loop Guru have an intrinsic knowledge of the music they sample, understanding that Balinese dancers and Jajouka musicians experience the same trancelike state as Western club kids. Incorporating real instruments and samples, this intoxicating soundtrack to a world party would feel the same in a Dallas warehouse and a beach in Indonesia. Call it ethno-techno, fusion rave, or whatever; this transglobal train makes all the stops for revelers of any color, religion, or fashion inclination.
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Chumps On Parade
The words "infectious" and "ska" have been paired together more times than "information" and "superhighway." On its second full-length album, MU330 does nothing to dissuade critics from their habit. St. Louis-based MU330 plays ska that's more Mighty Mighty Bosstones than Specials, with revved-up guitars and a sharp horn section. The band makes it through the album's 18 songs without falling into the sound-alike sinkhole--ska's greatest pitfall--due mostly to flexible vocals that alternate between smooth street corner doo-wop and the rantings of a lunatic sidewalk preacher. Imagine the Temptations, all manic depressive, on a Caribbean holiday without their medication.