Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Music Review: Putumayo's Blues Lounge

This is the latest addition to Putumayo’s Lounge series. Preceding it were World Lounge, Euro Lounge and Sahara Lounge. Those familiar with the Putumayo label might find the premise for this collection a little unusual. But the mood and sound of the CD are not so far removed from their usual international collections that a fan of the label cannot take pleasure in it.

The first requirement to enjoy this disk is an appreciation or at least a tolerance for electronica. The idea behind Blues Lounge is a collection that uses, to varying degrees, blues samples. The overall collection is mellow and mesmerizing as the slow rhythms glide from one track to the next.

The pieces cover the spectrum of electronica interpretation. The most obvious and common to those familiar with the genre, are those tracks, such as the ones by Tangle Eye and Moby, that simply re-mix already existing blues pieces. While their work on these recordings provides an interesting frame for the original performance, it also acts to sanitize it. Gone is the gritty soul of the original and we are served a very pleasing but unchallenging song.

The other electronica extreme displayed here can be found in the tracks by Little Axe and Johnny Farmer. They feature entirely new recordings made specifically for these ultra-produced pieces. Again, while they are reminiscent of traditional blues, they seem to miss the heart of it.

Finally, right in the middle, we have tracks such as those by Mo’ Horizons and Organic Grooves. Their work features both live musicians and samples from old recordings.

The result is a very relaxing, even hypnotic, album. It can easily slip away from the listener’s conscience attention as the synthesizers and drum machine rhythms loll along. If you are a fan of electronica and are intrigued by a slightly different twist on the often frantic nature of that style, you will probably greatly enjoy this album. On the other hand, if you are a devotee of historic and more modern blues music, the collection here will likely disappoint.

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