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World Music CD Reviews World Fusion

THE GREATEST SONGS EVER: WORLD

By Tom Pryor

Time-Life Music

Finally, the conglomerate that managed to reduce the Civil War and WWII into a lucrative publishing venture turns its attention to world music. In this modestly-titled series, whose first installment includes discs devoted to Brazil, Mexico, France, Spain, Cuba, Ireland and India, it seems that lowest common denominator pandering and the vagaries of international music licensing created the perfect storm of lowbrow dreck. How else to explain the attempt to pass off embarrassing novelty hits like Lou Bega's "Mambo No. 5" and Los Del Rio's "La Macarena?" as two of the "greatest songs ever" (as a matter of fact, they're the first two tracks). They get a few things right here, including Hugh Masekela's "Grazing In The Grass," Miriam Makeba's "Pata Pata" and Buena Vista Social Club's "Chan Chan"  -- all classics. But Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66? Ottmar Liebert? Musical Youth? Please. At least the covers are attractive, although the assignation of representative fruits to each nation (Brazil gets a banana, Mexico has chiles, etc.) seems a bit tasteless.