Various Artists | Panama! 3

Soundway (2009)
By GUSTAVO TURNER  |  November 25, 2009
3.5 3.5 Stars

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If you purchase a copy of Soundway’s wonderful Panama! 3 — and you should — you get two things for the price of one. First, this is a carefully curated CD of “Calypso Panameño, Guajira Jazz & Cumbia Típica on the Isthmus 1960-75” that will keep you smiling — and perhaps dancing — for a healthy while.

But your enjoyment will be doubled by the passionate liner notes of San Francisco–based compiler Roberto Ernesto Gyemant, who puts this rarely heard strand of Caribbean music into historical and social perspective. As Gyemant explains, the extra flavor on these tracks comes from Panama’s particular combination of races and cultures, and from the fertile chaos of its ports and slums.

It seems amazing that the label could have already culled two stellar comps from such a small nation — this volume’s tracks are way above the bottom of any proverbial barrel, and they’ll surprise you with everything from bilingual calypsos (“Fire Down Below”), tropical soul (“Moving-Grooving”), and a sleeper of a monster soul-jazz track that will have you hitting the repeat button (Los Silvertones’ “Carmen”).

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