Atoll Music, distr. by Sony Music
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Label compilations of a genre of music represented by multiple artists, one track for each, can be one of the best ways to discover new performers. The risk? That the artist you're attracted to has only released one memorable track, ever - the one on this compilation. The flip side? A collection of winners-only, even if they be the only ones extant of the artists "polled". And usually generously maxed-out content that doesn't believe a CD's 74 minutes are to be half wasted on the sound of one hand clapping.

This 30-track, twin CD, Best of Lounge Music assemblage, is such a winner's circle. Unless you didn't like exotically tinged music -- moderate sons, merengues, Gipsy rumbas, calypsos, Rai ballads, Brazilian Bossa novas, nightclubby tangos -- you should feel right at home, sprawled across a comfy couch in some hip joint, nursing a colorful cocktail, eyeing nubile dancers making out openly on the floor.

I'd call Lounge Music guilty pleasures only if I believed that our genetic hardwiring to pursue pleasure was a Divine cruelty, an embedded flaw that required self-denying austerities and purifications - or guilt for losing the struggle against self negation and denial of bodily bliss. No, we were gifted with our senses and their powerful capacity for joy and pleasure for a reason. And this double album is aural proof.

Unlike the parallel effort of BuddhaBar IV, as artfully sequenced and carefully cherry-picked, Best of doesn't use crossfades and concentrates exclusively on acoustic material, no new-agey or techno/trance synth ingredients. Also, there's a strong Latin/Middle-Eastern flavor. Otherwise, the spotlight is similarly on slinky mid-tempo numbers that set the hips a-swayin' with a distinct erotic charge. Call it the Ibiza syndrome, albeit no heavy breathing save for the last track on the second CD, presumably indicating that following the subliminal instructions thus far should have resulted in a certain entanglement of lips and limbs.

One look at the hosts shows we're in good hands: Bliss, Cesaria Evora, Los Ninos de Sara, Suba, Suzy, Adja Pekkan, Manuel Franjo, Hossam Ramzy, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Randy Crawford, Zehava Ben, Emmanel Santarromana, Carlos Campos & Ravin... veterans of the WorldMusic arena. Our unknown dj took pains to concentrate on tracks that maintain the same overall mood, with rhythms and tempi chosen to create continuity without riffs - exactly what you'd do for a custom feel-good compilation intended to set up and then sustain a certain space.

While different listeners will have different favorites, there's no empty fill or fluff in sight or sound. I couldn't ultimately vouch for the depth of the present material. But hell, rather than gut-wringing excesses that emotionally wreck you just sitting through, this very type of thematic collage, lovingly put together by an expert in the field, is exactly what the doctor orders far more frequently - to put a smile on your face, an ant in your pants, a tap in your shoes. Guilty pleasures minus the guilt - welcome The Best of Lounge Music.