Various Artists

The Big Bang: In the Beginning Was a Drum

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Whatever your feelings about Grateful Dead drummer and prolific ethnopercussionist Mickey Hart, most can agree on one thing: he makes the point he wants to make about the world and its fabulous drums. The Big Bang is a wildly eclectic compilation featuring instruments possibly previously unheard, from countries previously unheard-of, by the average listener. Hart emphasizes that the beat is as universal as it is diverse by presenting, among 200-plus drumming artists and groups, the spirited Tumuenua Dance Group of the Cook Islands, as well as some slick, sax-laden licks by Greg Lake with his famous studio pals Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer ("Karl Evil 9"). Hart tours far from Western shores, standing out with the reverberating "Water Drums" by the Baka Forest People, and the startling "Fuenyang Drum" by the Orchestra of Chinese Central Music College. Versatile keyboard maestro Bernie Krause (whose discography includes early stints with Link Wray and Van Morrison) begins and ends each of the the four discs with much whooping and sticks in "Amazon Days/Amazon Nights." CD proceeds trendily but admirably benefit the besieged rainforest (Rainforest Alliance), where the worldbeat clearly fuses on.

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