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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa

AMR DIAB

By PHIL MEADLEY
Published May 2, 2006

Allem Alby
Ark 21

For the uninitiated, Amr Diab is a superstar in Egypt shifting more units than most notable Western pop acts. Already the subject of three biographies, a film star, and one of the best-selling Arabic artists of all time, Diab is an Arabic tour de force. However, this album is lightweight pop schlock of the worst kind. If you can imagine Enrique Iglesias with Arabic strings and countless tales of lovesickness, loose-fitting shirts billowing in the wind, and glistening white teeth, you’ve got Allem Alby pegged. Most disappointing is the lack of big Arabic dance tunes to help rescue the dirge; at least his last, Aktar Wahed, included the fabulous dance anthem “Wala Ala Baloh.” “Ya Kenzi (My Treasure)” comes close to raising the temperature with a funky bass line and big horns, but even this is tantamount to Euro pop at its cheesiest. “Tekdar Tetkalem (You Could Talk)” does good with wailing strings, but quickly degenerates with mock sincerity and Celine Dion-style lamentations. “Law Ashkani” starts with a decent percussive beat, punchy lyrical delivery and catchy chorus, though it never catches fire. There is such an awful guitar solo in the otherwise promising instrumental “Khalleni Ganbak,” this is a perfect microcosm of Allem Alby as a whole: it’s trying to give Diab a more Western bent, but ends up sounding like the worst of both worlds.