Nana Mouskouri

The Voice of Greece

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The overexposure of Nana Mouskouri the world over has obscured the genuine quality of some of her work, particularly in her earlier years. This 27-track, 79-minute U.K. compilation is a good place to start for English-speaking audiences interested in getting material from her formative recordings in bulk. Recorded entirely in Greece (and sung entirely in Greek) between 1958 and 1960, it's an impressive and at times exhilarating survey of the era, as interesting for the songs and arrangements as for her singing. Her vocals are, to be sure, an important part of the music, drawing from her classical training but delivered with a measured, somewhat melancholy emotion. The material is wildly eclectic, yet in an understated and effective fashion, drawing from varying doses of classical, Greek folk, European pop, jazz, soundtrack music, and even bossa nova. For all the bittersweet sentimentality of many of the tunes, the arrangements are not bloated or overdone, imaginatively complementing the compositions' and vocalist's strengths. While only one of these ("Never on a Sunday," here titled "Ta Pedia Tou Pirea") might be familiar to global audiences, virtually everything is highly worthwhile and affecting. The liner notes, though containing a fair summary of Mouskouri's career, could have had more specific details about the tracks on this particular compilation. But as an anthology documenting her origins as a recording star, it's an excellent value.

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