I feel like I’m complaining about the silverware at the wedding reception, but calling this a “Best Of” is going out on a limb. Mano Negra’s trans-ethnic sound exploded into my head with Puta’s Fever , an early ’90s excursion that represented the band’s introduction to the stateside market. Several songs from that album are here, but in live form — “King Kong Five,” “Sidi H’Bibi,” “Mala Vida,” and many others. The heritage of other tracks, mostly live, is also questionable. Still Best Of Mano Negra! is a burning collection of thirteen or so tracks previously unavailable in the US. With the live settings, the disc handily demonstrates Mano Negra’s infallible power to incite a crowd into near-fission levels with an incredibly energetic mix of funk, punk, Arabic, reggae and what-have-you, a mongrel sound of no distinct breed but loads of personality. Had the Chili Peppers spent a couple of summers abroad about fifteen years ago, they would have briefly sounded like this. For more pan-cultural enjoyment, check out Mano Negra vocalist Manu Chao’s brilliant Clandestino (also on Ark 21).
Ark 21, 14724 Ventura Blvd., Penthouse Suite, Sherman Oakes, CA 91403; http://www.ark21.com