Various Artists

Make the Most of Your Time on Earth: A Rough Guide to the World

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Is it world music 101? Well, yes and no. This three-disc set gives room to the Americas and Africa, but then crams Europe and Asia together on the third CD, giving them remarkably short shrift -- it's certainly not because there's not enough happening there. Of the three, the African disc works best, cherry picking from some of the excellent music available on the continent, whether it's the Afro-beat of Tony Allen, the North African iconoclasm of Akli D or Saba's expressive voice. The Americas disc is a wild ride indeed, from the glorious reggae of the Congos through Gillian Welch's alt country to Andy Palacio's Garafuna sound, with side trips to Mexico and Cuba. If there's a problem to all this diversity, it's that, like many compilations, there seems to be little context to it all, and with so much different music from every country, it can at best provide a passing snapshot of a culture. That said, each cut is well chosen, from R.L. Burnside to Banda Ionica, and finishing with a wonderfully bizarre Vietnamese version of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" is inspired. Like most compilations that attempt a very wide reach, it probably ultimately fails, simply because you can't encompass this much. That makes this a failure in the end, but one that's fun to listen to.

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