Various Colombia

I guess 2001 is truly a new millennium if I'm digging something on Putumayo. The very thought of their slogan, "music guaranteed to make you feel good," has never failed to get my blood boiling - what if I want more than just feel good? Their cutesy-poo cover art further reinforces the ploy that this is "safe" world music, heavy on grooves, very light on atonalities. Admittedly, the organisation is quite fair in compensating its artists, which is more than can be said for many other record labels. And really, they've released enough of a catalogue that they're bound to put out some decent stuff. No kidding, their collection of modern sounds from Colombia is good. There is something about Colombian pop that has resisted, or better yet, integrated electronics and modern recording techniques. Whereas other Latin pop forms have ossified from quantised rhythms, these songs feature nice fat bass and percussion that's right up front. Most of the music represented here has a more straightforward downbeat than in much of Latin music. Even the electronically-oriented songs, such as Tulio Zuloaga's "El Temporal," find a good balance between live percussion and reasonably tasteful programming. Other tracks are regional variations of Cuban and Puerto Rican rhythms spiced up with different varieties of cowbells, acoustic guitars and clarinet. The liner notes are informative, though including phonetic spellings of each song title is a bit too much. (Putumayo)