Various Artists: Twenty First Century Twenty First Year

It may have seemed like just another example of dilettantism from a major star during the late ‘80s – a time when Amnesty International tours were all the rage and the Top 40 was stuffed with globetrotting music from Sting, Paul Simon, and Peter Gabriel – but 21 years later, David Byrne’s Luaka Bop is not only still around, it’s an inspirational example for anyone hoping to establish a boutique label. Known primarily as an outlet for releases from Byrne-approved “world music” artists like Zap Mama, Luaka Bop has actually been a more eclectic imprint than most people have given it credit for, something highlighted in the label’s new anniversary compilation, Twenty First Century Twenty First Year. You get the expected stuff – like Byrne’s tastes, the set skews toward South American and Afro-Caribbean grooves, offering booty-shaking cuts from Moreno +2, and Los Amigos Invisibles and some fine Shuggie Otis – but Twenty First is also careful to remind you that the label has provided a home for artists as diverse as Geggy Tah and Jim White. It all adds up to a solid hour of eclectic music that, like the label itself, is more interested in showing you a good time than proving how hip it is. And it succeeds, too – with the exception of Geggy Tah’s “Whoever You Are,” which should be locked in a lead-lined vault and fired into space, these tracks will make a fine addition to your next barbecue playlist, and it’s a fine introduction to the label in the bargain. (Luaka Bop 2009)

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