In the first half of the 20th century, Arab-Americans recorded for a small audience in the Arab-American community, often on 78s for tiny labels. This is a collection of 14 of those rare performances from 1916 through the early 1950s. The material covered is diverse enough to elude easy generalizations about the sound, although it's fair to say that it holds up well against the recordings of such music that were made in the countries from which these immigrants hailed. If there's any distinguishing mark to these recordings, it's that the bands are usually smaller (three- to six-member) groups than they would have been in their homelands, as the pool of available musicians was much smaller. The oud and violin are often (though not always) prominent in the arrangements, and the melodies often have a satisfying mix of sadness and sweetness. There's an unexpected appearance by a star on "Arabic Folk Songs," sung by comedian Danny Thomas. Certainly the weirdest of the lot is Kahraman's "Only You," which alternates English lyrics (basically, the title) with Egyptian ones, and cranks the reverb to 11 to produce some eerie quasi-psychedelic effects in the middle section.
AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger