'Exodus' - style crossover from world music superstar

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Manu Chao – La Radiolina

Chao’s ’98 solo debut ‘[b]Clandestino[/b]’ – made following the collapse of his agit-punk band [b]Mano Negra[/b], after an insane three month train journey across war-torn Colombia where the band gave free concerts for local peasants – shifted four million copies worldwide to become the second biggest-selling world music album in history after [b]Buena Vista Social Club[/b].

That album’s renegade global mix of rumba, reggae, rock, rai and rap, topped with the type of insurrectionary politics and memorable tunes seldom heard since [b]Bob Marley[/b], proved irresistible throughout the Spanish-speaking world. Britain, however, remained largely immune to the phenomenon, in part because Virgin initially declined even to release the album here.

The follow-up, 2001’s ‘Proxima Estacion Esperanza’, was in effect ‘Clandestino Two’ but since then Chao has been oddly reticent, releasing only a live album, the French side project [b]Sibérie M’était Contée[/b] and producing the blind Malian duo [b]Amadou & Mariam[/b]. Recorded at his home in Barcelona with additional mixing by [b]Mario Caldato[/b] (Beastie Boys/Beck), now comes his first major statement in six years – and without wishing to push the Marley comparisons ‘Exodus’.
His familiar trademarks are all here – the Latin folk melodies, flamenco and other world rhythms, simulated radio patter, surreal samples and the street-protest sloganeering on tracks such as “Politic Kills”. But like ‘Exodus’, ‘La Radiolina’ reaches out beyond it’s core audience to a universal constituency, not so much a world music record as a global-rock mission statement.

It’s all articulated in a musical Esperanto. From the galloping rockabilly-blues of the opener “13 Dias” through the frenetic energy of “Panic Panic” and the driving rock beats of “Rainin In Paradize”, to the catchy, grown-up pop of “Bleeding Clown”. The latter sounds tailor-made for Robbie Williams, who covered Chao’s “Bongo Bong” with Lily Allen on his last album. Chao started out in Mano Negra wanting to be [b]Joe Strummer[/b]. The two subsequently became friends and the [b]Clash[/b] man ended up wanting to be Manu Chao. He would’ve loved ‘La Radiolina’: with its manifesto of globalista politics, maverick beats and gypsy soul, it’s what he was latterly striving for.