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Paul Bowles: Music of Morocco

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Music of Morocco: From the Library of Congress, Recorded by Paul Bowles 1959 (Dust to Digital, 4 CDs and book, $61.98) – Writer and composer Paul Bowles relocated to Morocco in 1947, and fell in love with its written and musical cultures. In 1959 for the Library of Congress, he drove his Volkswagen Beetle on a six month field-recording journey all over Morocco to record as many musical traditions he could find.

Music of Morocco presents the best of those recordings—it includes four CDs and a 120-page book with field notes by Bowles, and extensive annotations by scholar Philip Schuyler. The set comes in a beautiful cloth cigar box, with silk-screened and embossed Moroccan design.

For further reading (and listening), I highly recommend Adam Shatz’s article for the New York Review of Books Daily (with song excerpts) as well as well as Amanda Petrusich’s article for the New Yorker’s web site.

Banning Eyre also reviewed the set in early June for NPR’s All Things Considered.


More Reissues and Box Sets

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Hailu Mergia & Dahlak Band, Wede Harer Guzo (Awesome Tapes from Africa, $14.98) – Hailu Mergia, keyboardist and leader of the Walias Band, was at the forefront of Addis Ababa’s musical life in the 1970s. He emigrated to the DC area in the early 1980s; he drives a cab, but still plays concerts,  inspiring a new generation of musicians.

This is the third album of Mr. Mergia’s music reissued on the Awesome Tapes from Africa label: Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument, a solo instrumental recorded in the U.S. in 1985, and the classic Tche Belew, originally recorded in 1977. Wede Harer Guzo was originally recorded in 1978, not with Walias Band (who played at the Hilton), but with the Dahlak Band, the house band at the Ghion Hotel, which catered to a younger crowd. Mr. Mergia and Brian Shimkovitz (who reissued the music on his label) were interviewed on NPR’s Dinner Party Download.

Ola Belle Reed and Southern Mountain Music on the Mason-Dixon Line (Dust to Digital, 2 CDs and book, $41.98) – “The first in-depth look at the life of Ola Belle Reed, a groundbreaking artist who is one of the all-time greatest performers of authentic, old-time music. Her 1960s recordings, some of the earliest she ever made and available here for the very first time, are counter-balanced by a disc of modern-day field recordings of her descendants and those within her Appalachian community that she inspired.” The set includes a tall, 256-page hardback book with two CDs, with texts by folklorist Henry Glassie (who recorded and chronicled Ola Belle Reed in 1966) and Clifford Murphy of the Maryland State Arts Council, who documented the scene in 2009 in the small Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania towns.


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Van Morrison, It’s Too Late to Stop Now, Vol. I (Sony Legacy, 2 CDs, $16.98) and It’s Too Late to Stop Now, Vols. II – IV (Sony Legacy, 3 CDs & 1 DVD, $49.98) – Van Morrison was at the height of his powers in 1973, with his “fusion of rock, R&B, gospel, jazz, country, blues, folk, Celtic and classical music.” For his touring band, he assembled the Caledonia Soul Orchestra (with both a string and horn sections), who could take the songs to new heights in new arrangements, but leaving room for improvisations. The best of these live sets was released as It’s Too Late to Stop Now, Vol. I in 1974 as a 2-LP set. Along with the reissue, exciting new material is being issued as It’s Too Late to Stop Now, Vols. II – IV from the same tours, on three CDs and one DVD.

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Charlie Parker, Unheard Bird: The Unissued Takes (Verve, 2 CDs, $19.98) – Unheard Bird juxtaposes alternate and incomplete takes of 21 tunes, matched with the finished “released master.” The set is compiled by Phil Schaap, the pre-eminent Charlie Parker scholar, and host of the long-running radio show, Bird Flight, on Columbia University’s WKCR.



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Ragazze String Quartet, Four Four Three: Music of Terry Riley (Channel Classics, $20.98) – Collaborations drive two exciting new performances of Terry Riley’s music. In his monumental In C, the Ragazze String Quartet combine with the percussion quartet Slagwerk Den Haag, and Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector (with Ragazze teaming with the trio Kapok, electric guitar, French horn, drums/percussion)

Radiohead, Moon Shaped Pool (XL Records, $17.98) – The latest sonic adventures of Radiohead, now available as a physical CD.