My Only Consolation
Rounder has been putting out fine compilations of rembetica for a while now, and although this release does not contain as many rarities as the sister release Mourmourika: Songs of the Greek Underworld, it is still a must for any collector of rembetica, as well as a terrific introduction for the newcomer.
Charles Howard has provided the tracks and the translations, as well as thorough liner notes, so that one is rarely left dangling with questions about the music or its background. The sound restoration is excellent; the tracks sound old but clear, and capture the grim and gritty world of the Manges (street toughs) of Piraeus who sing unsentimentally about dope, sickness, violence and death.
The commanding Markos Vamvakaris gets the lion's share of tracks; six out of 22. But there are plenty of other brilliant moments; a fine, slow lament sung by Stratos Payioumdzis, a strangely sprightly "The Junkie's Pain" by Artemis, the title track by Stellios Keromitis, and the soulful tenor of Yiorgos Kavouras to name only a few. - Michal Shapiro