Though a native of Belgium, Natacha Atlas is of Egyptian ancestry and has been bewitching Western listeners with her melismatic Arabic vocals since the early '90s as a solo artist and a member of the worldbeat dance band Transglobal Underground. All of her solo albums have been impressive, but this one is her best so far. As always, she's helped out in the beats department by her colleagues in Transglobal Underground, and as always their stylistic promiscuity stands her in good stead: her original songs, sung in Arabic as usual, are an entrancing fusion of snaky, modal melodies and gutbucket funk grooves -- "Ashwa," "Mish Fadilak," and her adaptation of Zebda's "Soleil D'Egypte" are all every bit as rhythmically irresistible as they are seductively lovely. And the cover versions are, if anything, even better; she turns the torching Jacques Brel classic "Ne Me Quitte Pas" into a slinky dancefloor come-on, and delivers the best version of "I Put a Spell on You" since the death of Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Is there anything she can't do?
by Rick Anderson