All of these are must-haves: Luciano Pavarotti's first-ever crossover release shows the aging maestro at the peak of his form, delivering pathos italiano where you least expect it, albeit always with the utmost in taste and stylistic coherence which can't be said for competing efforts. Bebo & Cigala is an unexpected encounter between a fiery young Flamenco cantaor and an octogenarian Cuban pianist that rewrites history and is one of the most stunningly successful "clashes of the worlds" ever committed to master tape. Vicente Pradal's Dark Night of the Soul sets to song St. John of the Cross' famous poem, delivered by three vigorous tenors, double bass and piano for world-class musicianship and emotional intensity. Flamenco singer El Pele and guitarist Vicente Amigo deliver the most incendiary example of goosebump-raising songs on Canto heard since the great Camaron's demise while Miguel Poveda adapts his Flamenco pipes to Rafael Alberti's famous poetry from Argentinean exile and is accompanied by full orchestra for a seamless hybrid between Flamenco and Tango. Renaud Garcia-Fons also pays homage to the Flamenco idiom but does so on double bass, accompanied by a brilliant cadre of unexpected instrumentalists. Ljiljana Butler is the glorious Roma version of Cesaria Evora's Cape Verde mourna while Erik Marchand et les Balkaniks unearth contemporary verve in energetic Gypsy fare. Tibetan nun Drolma and Brit electronica wizard Tibbetts reunite on Selwa for an otherwordly glimpse into sung Tibetan prayers while Samba queen Alcione's live double album is as worldly and juicy as it gets, transporting the listener straight into the pulsing heart of Rio's most powerful music.
10 albums, ten flat-out winners, all excuses to spend $200 and reconnect with the passion that's underlying our communal obsession with audio hardware. Here are the formal review links for them all except Alcione:
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