Various New York City: Global Beat of the Boroughs

This is Smithsonian's boldest marketing initiative yet. Global Beat of the Boroughs focuses on NYC, the world's musical junction. This subject is much more accessible to a wide audience than perhaps any other entry in the entire Smithsonian catalogue, and the promotion pretty much writes itself. That being said, few other compilations have ever undertaken a venture that is truly global and local at the same time. As befits Smithsonian, the liner notes are comprehensive in explaining the thesis of the comp and each of the 31 tracks represented. Some tracks are licensed from other labels, but all participants are strongly community-oriented, whether or not they have a record deal. The first of the two discs focuses primarily on African and Latin rhythms, with superb examples of Haitian, Dominican and West African styles displayed. Just when you latch on to the energy of these grooves, tunes from Albania, China and Korea follow. Disc two ranges from Gypsy sounds through to Irish, klezmer, Lebanese and Italian songs. Because "beat" is the operative word in the title, all the tracks fit together well despite contrasting sonorities. It's almost as if a DJ put this together, and the experience is more enjoyable than educational, unlike many other Smithsonian releases. Best of all, the recording fidelity is excellent throughout: let's hear it for the unsung engineers of NYC's studios! (Smithsonian Folkways)