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Mickey Hart: Planet Drum (25th Anniversary Edition)

by Bill Murphy on March 16, 2017
When talking about the most influential world-music recordings of the last 30 years, Planet Drum surely belongs in the same conversation as Paul Simon’s Graceland or the Ry Cooder-produced Buena Vista Social
—and by influential, we don’t mean merely popular. For better or worse, Graceland and BVSC came with a political backstory that was essential to their appeal; one endured charges of enabling South Africa’s
apartheid apparatus (a complaint that was overshadowed by the album’s sheer artistry), while the other resurrected a long-lost musical style that had been hidden from view for generations by the Cuban Revolution.

Planet Drum didn’t engender a political discussion—if anything, the underlying message was environmental consciousness—but as a testament to Mickey Hart’s insatiable musical curiosity, it broke unusual ground. Prior to the album’s 1991 release, no one had thought to unite some of the world’s master percussionists—Zakir Hussain, Babatunde Olatunji, Airto Moreira and more—for a collaborative summit. On an equal footing, Hart and his compatriots generate an all-enveloping, hypnotic sound that’s built on mystical and healing properties, from the lilting textures of “Island Groove” (punctuated by Sikiru Adepoju’s talking drum) to the strange rhythms of “Temple Caves” (fueled by Hussain’s incomparable tabla chops) and the Brazil-flavored dreamscape “Sea of Showers” (a bonus track for this package, featuring Flora Purim and Olatunji on vocals). It’s fitting that Planet Drum won the first Grammy in the world-music category, and inspired a wave of would-be percussionists to take up an instrument. As big-name drum circles go, this one will never be topped.
Authors: Bill Murphy
Artist: Mickey Hart
Album: Planet Drum (25th Anniversary Edition)
Label: Universal/Verve