While Putumayo has had a habit of putting out somewhat more "commercial" releases of world music, and perhaps not so much of the actual "traditional" works, catering to the Starbucks crowd, this album, Caribbean Party, is actually a decent compilation of various dance music from the islands. Martiniquean banjo player Kali plunges through the history of zouk music in "L'Histoire de Zouk." Haitian compas band Tabou Combo contributes the faster "Chale Lanmou." Bago adds in a decidedly Latin piano sound to his zouk on "Serjyo." Krosfyah puts out the rocksteady sound on "Pump Me Up," and fellow Barbados residents Coalishun contribute smooth soca on "Ice Cream." Legendary Wailer Bunny Wailer puts in a slick cover of Rastaman Vibration hit "Roots, Rock Reggae." Eric Virgal provides an effect-laden version of zouk on "Pa Fe Mwen la Pen," and French Antillean Patsy Geremy sings her way through a higher-paced "Chayew Ale." Former Malavoi member Ralph Thamar brings out "Dokte," which sounds like a mix of zouk and Cuban music. Finally, from Montserrat, Arrow finishes the album off with a rousing soca anthem of "Don't Touch My Tempo" at a quick pace that disagrees with his own lyrics ("this is my tempo, nice and slow"). The main highlights on the album are many. Bunny Wailer's cover is wonderful; though Bob Marley's version (with Wailer, of course) may be a bit superior, this one's still good. Arrow's work is one of the best beefed-up soca (soul/calypso) songs you'll ever hear, and the works by Coalishun and Krosfyah are both great examples of Martiniquean zouk music. Though Putumayo might not always be looking for the best traditional mix, this album has hit after hit of zouk. The only real problem with this compilation is the noticeable absence of anything from Jamaica outside of Bunny Wailer, especially dancehall and ragga styles. Perhaps they would have cost too much.
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AllMusic Review by Adam Greenberg