Desert Roses and Arabian Rhythms, Vol. 2

Various Artists

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Desert Roses and Arabian Rhythms, Vol. 2 Review

by Chris Nickson

Compilations are invariably like the curate's egg -- good in parts -- and this one's no exceptions. For all the delights, like the fiery duet between Egypt's Hakim and Puerto Rican star Olga Tañon or the playful version of "Take Me I'm Yours," which transports Squeeze to North Africa in the company of Tunisian diva Latifa, you have to put up with the extremely mundane, like Shani's blandly techno-fied "Call of the Wild" or Zohar's frankly boring electronica on "The Merciful One." Overall, though, the quality's high, with some excellent tracks by Algerian Cheb Nastro, and Oojami's club-beats-go-to-Turkey "Istanboogie," which bodes well for their album. A number of the cuts do come from albums released on Mondo Melodia, but that doesn't lessen the enjoyment of songs like Amina's "Lirrili," Rachid Taha's "En Retard" (confirming the man as the best Arab-Western crossover), or Khaled's "Trigue Lycee," one of the best things to come off his Kenza release. But, like any compilation, it's the rarities that set it apart, and this has a few of them. Apart from the Hakim/Tañon and Squeeze/Latifa pairings, there's also Arabian Fantasy's excellent "Yala Habibi," coming out of left field. It follows on the success of the original Desert Roses & Arabian Rhythms, which offered a fresh look at North African and Middle Eastern music, and continues to delight with its variety and intensity -- to this point, at least, the law of diminishing returns that dogs compilation series hasn't kicked in.

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