Cover the World

Cover the World

World Music Versions of Classic Pop Hits


If you’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to reggae radio, you may have noticed the tradition of mediocre reggae artists covering American pop songs. It takes a bit getting used to, and, even after you do, it usually strikes you as something awfully funny (stress on “awfully”). Anybody who has ever had the dubious pleasure of hearing Ray Barretto’s cover of “Pastime Paradise” knows that other world genres have rarely fared much better in covering our pop.

That’s why, when having received Cover the World, I was prepared to sit down and guffaw. I was pleasantly disappointed (stress on “pleasantly”). This disc is pretty damned good. Actually, pleasurable. The folks at Putumayo must have gone through incredible lengths to pull this one off. I don’t envy them for all the crap they had to have listened to in order make this compilation as good as it is.

We get fabulous world artists such as Angelique Kidjo, Fatal Mambo, Touri Kunda and Ladysmith Black Mambazo along with brilliant zydeco master, Chris Ardoin, covering everyone from Ray Charles, Curtis Mayfield, Jimi Hendrix, Bill Withers and Bob Marley to Lou Reed, Phil Collins, Toto (yes, Toto), Jackie Wilson and Hall and Oates. And, yes, the very idea of hearing an African version of “Africa” or “In the Air Tonight” will make you chuckle. However, any bemusement is quickly wiped away by the quality of the work here (especially Mo’ Horizon’s version of “Hit the Road Jack,” an electronic age juke joint stomp). There are a lot of surprises here that simply leave one marveling. Kudos, guys.

Putumayo Records:

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