Various Artists

National Geographic Around the World: Romance

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Part of the National Geographic Around the World series, this album takes the theme of romance and collects songs from various cultures dealing with the theme. The ballad is the preferred form for the majority of the songs here, but deviations are also found. The focus is largely on Europe, as roughly half of the songs hail from there, with the remainder spread throughout the rest of the world. The album opens with a Norwegian ballad celebrating a devoted couple, and then moves into the more spontaneously romantic Lindeza from Brazil, which describes the emotion of young love. Spanish and Bolivian songs chronicle courtship and unrequited love, and a Celtic ballad details the love letter of a political exile. A South African wedding song adds more percussion into the setting, and a quiet French class returns the focus to Europe, sans percussion. A more rambunctious Armenian wedding song precedes a Mohawk Rabbit Dance (symbolizing marriage through its steps: two steps forward, one step back). Robert Fernandez brings a syncopated bit of Cuban music about the bewitching of a powerful woman and Queen Liliuokalani's classic "Aloha 'Oe" stands as a song of romantic farewell. The album finishes on a waltz from "La Boheme" thick with accordion accompaniment and a strong female singer. The attempt throughout is to showcase the manners in which romance makes itself apparent in song throughout the world, and this is done relatively well. The tracks, themselves, don't hold any noticeable coherence with one another musically, only thematically. As part of the Around the World series, this album stands quite well, although the listener is advised to give the extensive liner notes and cultural information a thorough reading.

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