When the increasingly adventurous Ruben Blades first conceived Mundo, he wanted to blend Celtic and Caribbean music.
When the increasingly adventurous Ruben Blades first conceived Mundo, he wanted to blend Celtic and Caribbean music. But as Mundo progressed, and with it, Blades' collaboration with a host of musicians—from jazz/classical/folk ensemble Editus to guest artists Boca Livre and Eric Rigler—Mundo became a world musical journey that also incorporated Middle Eastern, flamenco, and African elements, among others. The set's message is one of unity and shared heritage; linked by a reappearing instrumental motif, it is meant to be heard in one sitting. It's an ambitious, complex work of rich, musical hues and provocative arrangements. It's also an album of great beauty, notably in the evocative "Ella" and in a landmark rendition of "Danny Boy," which mixes tradition and salsa. But at times, Mundo is more concerned with being eclectic and all-inclusive—almost too clever for its own good—than with simply delivering good music. After a while, we long to be just entertained, and the simplest tracks—"Sebastian" and "Parao," among them—are ultimately the most pleasing.—LC