RADIO BEMBA SOUND SYSTEM (THE LIVE ALBUM)
Recorded during a marathon concert in Paris last year, this live Manu Chao album includes 29 songs that give the Spanish-born, Paris-raised troubadour a completely new sound. Songs such as "Welcome to Tijuana" and "Bongo Bong" (from Chao's first album, Clandestino) aren't just played faster—which is what you'd expect from a live album—but have completely different melodies. There are delightful renditions of "Machine Gun," "Blood and Fire," and "Promiscuity," complete with horn solos and souped-up, high-energy ska/reggae rhythms. Fans of Manu Chao's old ethno-punk band Mano Negra will be especially delighted with the live album because it features some of Mano Negra's best tunes. Folks who aren't so hot on reggae may chafe at all the hiccuping ska riffs that permeate the disc, but that's their problem. And just when the reggae seems like it will never end, Manu brings things to another, more soothing level with such slower ballads as "Minha Galera" and "El Viento." From start to finish, Radio Bemba Sound System is a beautiful album, especially for a live concert recording. The only dissonant sounds are between the songs: the cheering and screaming of his fans, most of which is mercifully edited out of existence. You can't blame the crowd, though—if you were there, you would have been screaming and stomping your feet, too. (Nick Schou)
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