The Caribbean (Putumayo PUTU 245, 2006)
The rather broad scope of this album seems odd, since the Putumayo label has already put out numerous solid collections focusing on specific regions and musical genres of the Caribbean. So why’d they step back and put out something this generalized? Then again, why not? Hearing one type of Caribbean music can often put you in the mood for another, and this disc breezes nicely from one locale to the next, covering ground that’s refreshing regardless of familiarity.
Jamaica chimes in with the Skatalites classic “Freedom Sounds” as well as Stanley Beckford doing “Samfie Man,” a gem dating from the pre-ska mento era.
There’s party-hearty soca handled by Coalishun from Barbados and Trinidad’s Militant and a couple good slices of the French Caribbean via Marce & Toumpak’s roots-respecting zouk and Kali’s reggae/biguine mashup. Plus, rather than go with the tried-and-true from Cuba, newer fusionists Ska Cubano and Waldo Mendoza are served up instead.
The one Haitian selection, Mika’s “Bel Fanm,” likewise balances tradition with contemporary sounds in an appealing manner. Some bases are left untouched (a vintage calypso track or maybe something from Puerto Rico, Curacao or Guadeloupe would have made this disc more complete), but the selection here is
very much what a musical trip around the Caribbean should be: hot and cool.