Rai's moment in the sun may have past already in Western markets (there was a large bump in popularity following Cheb Mami's appearance in Sting's Desert Rose, but it didn't last as long as one might have hoped). Nonetheless, rai is poised to become a phenomenon at any moment, and retains popularity in parts of Europe, as well as the obvious Algeria. This compilation deals mostly with modern rai, but largely prior to the experimentation of Rachid Taha. Messaoud Bellemou and his updated instrumentation (guitars, etc) is here, and most others are followers. That said, there's no real fusion with rock proper included. The performers here are for the most part not from the main pantheon of performers (Khalèd, Taha, Faudel), though Cheb Hasni does make a very nice appearance which is worth the price of the album on its own. The bulk of Algerian Rai ranges from sublime to unsettling, and all points in between. Starting out with the albums by major names may be a better way to go than this -- either the great 1,2,3 Soleils album or some solo albums from Cheb Mami, Khalèd, or Rachid Taha. Save this one until you're already attuned to the aesthetics.
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AllMusic Review by Adam Greenberg