various artists,
Music from the Coffee Lands II
(Putumayo, 2001)

Who can resist the lure of coffee? Among the world's people, coffee is one of the most popular beverages, according to Putumayo's booklet included with Music From the Coffeelands II. Many countries base their economies on the beans, and I know personally that my day doesn't start until the second cup.

So I expected this compilation to be a little spicy, a little stimulating and highly caffeinated. Filled with selections from Brazil, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and varied African coffee-exporting countries, the potential for some complex rhythmic songs that would have me dancing in my chair was there. Unfortunately, it seems that Putumayo's selections are made more for the decaffeinated soul.

Slow and slightly disjointed, the collection lacks coherency. A few of the selections have independent energy, but as a whole, it lacks spirit. If you're looking for musical java -- look elsewhere. You're more likely to fall asleep to this CD than you are to wake up and face your day.

On a positive note, as with many of the Putumayo collections, one of the best things about the disc is the accompanying booklet. It goes into great depth about the impact of coffee on the world's economy and its history. At the end, they've even included some coffee recipes from around the world, so when the disc starts to put you to sleep, you can revitalize with some actual joe.

That's not to say that the music itself isn't good. With each viewed on its own merit, there's nothing wrong with them at all. In fact, a few of the selections are quite good. "Quem e Muito Querido a Mim" by Geraldo Azevedo of Brazil, for instance, is extremely complex, drawing from the typical rhythms of Africa and a strange, almost zenlike Buddhist chant in his vocals. It's that complexity that makes you listen intently, and it's also the reason why the transition to the next track, "El Atabal De Mi Negra" by Titico y Los Caracoles del Amargue of the Dominican Republic, is awkward -- it's is exceedingly simple in execution and seems like a shock after coming off Azevedo's music.

There's quite a few transitional errors like this throughout the disc, and it made the whole experience a little difficult for me to get into. All expectations aside, this collection had the potential to be very good and fell short. There are tracks that are worth having, but not enough for me to have purchased the CD -- there are better collections for that. It just wasn't what I was looking for.

[ by Elizabeth Badurina ]
Rambles: 21 December 2001

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