Asmara All Stars Eritrea's Got Soul

Better to get the judgment out of the way before setting up context: this record simply doesn't live up to its potential. In the now familiar world music concept, a Western producer goes to Country X to discover talent and put together music that draws from their traditions, but recorded with better quality. In this case, the country is Eritrea and the producer is Bruno Blum, whose greatest success came from his latter-day dubbing of Serge Gainsbourg's reggae albums. Usually, the successful instances of this tactic involve the country's age-old traditions shining through an adroit buff and polish by the producer (Buena Vista Social Club, the Garifuna Project). In this case, the All-Stars sound flaccid and studio-bound, while their experiments would benefit from the feedback of a few gigs. It doesn't help that mundane roots reggae, while universally popular throughout Africa, is too often a factor in dragging the energy down; this band just don't sound convinced of what they're doing. However, the singing is terrific throughout and the'70s-channelling instrumentation makes it go down a little too smoothly. But a heady dose of urgency, as found briefly in "Adunia," would have helped a great deal. (Out Here)