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Badi Assad’s Diversity Flourishes on ‘Chameleon’

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Badi Assad refers to herself, humorously, as a “one-woman band.” And the label, despite its whimsical aspects, is pretty much on target.

The Brazilian guitarist, the younger sister of the well-known classical guitar duo the Assad Brothers, is a whirlwind performer, strumming her guitar, singing, shaking percussion instruments and making vocalized percussive sounds, often all at the same time. Although it is a style not uncommon in the favelas of Rio and, especially, in the performances of singer-songwriter Joao Bosco, Assad’s superb technique and imaginative musicality transforms virtually everything she plays into her own unique creative experience.

Assad’s latest album, the aptly titled “Chameleon"--her first for a company with major distribution, the i.e. Music label--adds more production than in her past outings, however, and sometimes more than she needs. Five songs written with manager-producer Jeff Scott Young cast Assad in rock-tinged, sometimes atmospheric settings emphasizing message and production at the expense of her essential style. Fortunately, most of the balance of the album allows her diversity to flourish. And it is with these numbers--among them the lovely, Lee Ritenour-produced Assad original “Waves,” her own “Dolphins in the Blue Mist,” Vital Farias’ “Ai Que Saudade D’Oce” and Milton Nascimento’s “Ponta de Areia"--that Assad’s musical spirit is set free, and her potential as a sparkling new world music talent fully emerges.

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Ireland in L.A.: The innovative Celtic music of Mairead Sullivan begins with her Irish roots, then branches through an unpredictable array of other sounds and styles. Her new album, “For Love’s Caress, a Celtic Journey” (Lyrebird Music and Publishing), scheduled to be released on Monday, showcases her high, mobile soprano in backgrounds ranging from the traditional Irish timbres of pipes and guitars to unusual combinations of harp, cello, accordion, keyboards and electric guitar.

On one track, Sullivan sings the traditional song “The Great Silkie” accompanied by the remarkable, drone-like throat-singing of Shannon Michael Terry. On other pieces--"Rapture” and “Recurring Dream,” two of the nine originals on the album, are good examples--rock and folk-tinged rhythms interact with the rich, roving, eclectic sounds of cello, accordion and 12-string guitar.

Sullivan, who was also featured on Narada’s “Celtic Voices: Women of Song” and piper Derek Bell’s “A Celtic Evening,” as well as her own earlier album, “Dancer,” describes her music, accurately, as “a journey of the imagination.” Information: (888) 878-5998 or via the Web at https://www.maireid.com

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Israel’s Finest: She is virtually unknown in this country, but Chava Alberstein is one of Israel’s most popular singers. Of the more than 40 albums the 50-year-old artist has recorded, a dozen have gone gold, three have gone platinum, and one is triple platinum. Yet amazingly, “Crazy Flower,” a greatest-hits collection released this month by Shanachie, is her first recording released in the U.S. Although Alberstein sings in Hebrew, the recording includes literate English translations of the songs, and in any case, her dark-toned, appealing voice and compelling musical settings transcend the specifics of the words.

Alberstein makes a rare Los Angeles appearance on April 30 in a 50th anniversary of Israel celebration at Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd. Information: (310) 652-7353, Ext. 223.

Reggae Roots: Reggae in its most definitive form is the centerpiece of “The Complete Wailers 1967-1972 Part 1" (JAD Records), a three-CD boxed set of music by the seminal Jamaican band formed in the early ‘60s by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingstone. The tracks trace to a period in which the music was still in the process of being formed, several years before the breakout Wailers hits of the ‘70s. Among the gems in this valuable collection are the superb, early reggae “Soul Rebel,” and the rare “Selassie Is the Chapel,” as well as many previously unreleased tracks drawn from demos recorded for JAD. The third CD in the group, “The Best of the Wailers,” produced by studio owner Leslie Kong, includes five lead vocals by Tosh.


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