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George Dalaras' Mediterranean | 30th - 40th Parallels is a discovery on par with last year's Vox by Andreas Vollenweider, Anoushka Shankar's Rise and Vicente Amigo's Un Momento en Sonido. On it, Greece's most famous singer shares the stage with Portuguese diva Dulce Pontes, Eddy Napoli, Mira Anward Awad, Halil Moustafa, full orchestra, Ponte's Portuguese ensemble and Greek instrumental soloists. The record uses live cuts from a sold-out two-day concert and literally raises the roof of your listening room with glorious songs and ecstatic audience applause. A 2-disc package with a bonus DVD of 14 concert tracks -- the CD itself sports 18 -- is also available.


This recording is all about huge - pathos, passion, celebration, the most famous Mediterranean songs of its singer soloists who are emoting at the top of their lungs playing off one another, backed by large forces of first-rate musicians. This wants to be played loud, i.e. at levels realistic for the scope and scale of the recording. The contact high from being there at the Odeon of Herod Atticus hall, with thousands of Dalaras' landsmen and women recognizing and appreciating the greatness of the occasion - well, this album is a time capsule for those of us who couldn't attend.


The audience knew every song, welcoming it with applause a few bars into its opening. Going from strength to strength, the arc of intensity of this concert never falters but continues building. Each new song is a specially blessed vessel that cuts through more and more intense breakers, emerging victorious and ready for more from each. A perfect storm is an apt descriptor for this phenomenon.


Highlights in a production that seems filled with highlights are the numbers with Dulce Pontes. Those include duetizing on trademark Dalaras song like "Remember me" and "Beautiful City" as well as headlining on "O Mey Menino É De Oiro" and "Havana". No sooner have you identified those, others beg for equal recognition. There's the Hebrew anthem "Yiad Anouga" made famous by Ofra Haza, here performed between Dalaras and Awad; the "You Flew" signature song of Corsican Petru Guelfucci, cello replaced by klarnet; instantly recognizable Manos Hadjidakis, Mikis Theodorakis and Zülfü Livaneli numbers; the sensuous lilt of "Tayomro E-Shita" by Mira Anward Awad. Like a 5-star restaurant, there's not a lemon or ordinary item on the menu.


As the liner notes explain, Dalaras' vision for this event was to bring together famous Mediterranean singers and signature pieces of their respective cultures in a festive dedication to the colorful variety as well as underlying unity of the geographical area defined by the 30th and 40th parallel - Fado with bouzouqi, Napolitanian with Turkish clarinet, Rumba Gitan with Tsifeteli, Dorian and Duende. An ambitious vision to be sure but manifested here with singular finesse and on a scale rarely captured on silver disc. If global events in current news make you doubtful of mankind's future as a viable race in the cosmos, music as this makes you wonder whether other beings elsewhere aren't also a bit jealous of us. Despite our warlike fearful nature bent on self and environmental destruction, our parallel capacity for musical artistry and love is something to behold. If Mediterranean was spinning aboard an exploratory probe in deep space, extraterrestrials finding it might actually feel compelled to pay us a visit...