Various Artists

La Paloma: One Song For All Worlds, Vol. 1

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People thought Rhino Records was crazy to issue two volumes of the song "Louie, Louie" done by all manner of weird bands. That was nothing. Trikont, the acid-dazed German label whose sole mission in life -- and sometimes near death -- is to make available the weird, the wonderful, the forgotten, and the never weres, has gone overboard: they have issued four CDs of bands from all over world and from different decades over the 20th century playing the old standby "La Paloma." Look, if it doesn't strike a chord with you, it would if you heard it. Cool Cuban ballad that it looks like almost everybody covered. But four volumes? Over 100 takes? One Song? Yep, crazy as hell. Now to the music; the first version is by the Strangers in 1965 -- yes, Merle Haggard's band -- and it's followed by a gorgeous guitar combo led by Raymond Kane from 1988 and on to the Comedian Harmonists from 1939, and a Hawaiian group from 1929 before Hans Albers takes it on near the end of WWII in 1944. Nobody you've heard of yet? How about Carla Bley doing two variations: one called "Sad Paloma," and the other called "Whistling Paloma." How about Amon Düül II's "La Krautoma"? Surely you've heard that. Perhaps the Edison Concert Band from 1910 or Flaco Jimenez and the Rockin' Tex-Mex Band from 1986 will strike a memory chord. If not, there is always an amazing version by Charlie Parker recorded late in his career in 1952. There's even a stompin' version by Jelly Roll Morton recorded in 1938. There are 26 tracks in all, so I haven't mentioned half of them yet. The point is this: No two are alike. More often than not, you can barely recognize the original -- take for instance the earliest recording here, from 1899 by the Garde Republicane. What does it mean besides that Trikont is crazy? It means that that one song has so confused and haunted civilization for over 100 years that its relentlessly lonely and melancholy melody crosses not only cultural but class, political, and social barriers as well. That alone makes it worth the effort. And yes, of course, it makes for compelling listening with or without that mindset.

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