Carnival, the ecstatic release of carnal desire in the days leading up to Lent, has a long history. With its roots firmly buried in the Dionysian festivities of ancient Greece, the celebration was appropriated by the Romans for their Bacchanalian homage and then adapted by Roman Catholics to fit pre-Ash Wednesday festivities. Celebrated by Catholics and Bacchanalians alike, contemporary carnival celebrations are especially fervent among the African Diaspora in the Caribbean and the Americas. And from the parading samba schools in Rio to the calypso tents on Trinidad, the art form most identified with carnival is that of music. On Putumayo's Carnival, ten festive tunes, performed in the spirit of carnival, are presented. Among the featured artists are New Orleans' own Eddie Bo building slide trombone riffs on top of shuffling beats, Colombian salsa group Fruko y sus Tesos singing about a particular kind of foppish carnival reveler, and Rio's distinguished sambistsa Martinho da Vila beautifully performing the carnival classic "Canta Canta, Minha Gente." Though some of the CD's cuts have more to do with festivals in general than with carnival in particular -- such as Big Davy's Crop Over celebration song -- all the songs contribute to the ebullient atmosphere of the compilation. If you're looking for field recordings of actual carnival celebrations then this CD is not for you. On the other hand, if you're looking for contemporary studio recorded songs that reference carnival either directly or indirectly, then Putumayo's Carnival should probably find its way onto your stereo.
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AllMusic Review by John Vallier