Women who have flinched from R. Crumb's comic work, deeming it sexist, may want to re-consider their opinions of the man after guiding an ear or two towards the music on this disc. (Or perhaps not, since this collection was his wife's idea.)
Like a sedated Joe Bussard, the France-dwelling expat calmly trawls the vaults of his own enormous 78 rpm record collection: The payoff is a rarely-before-heard pile of antiquated ethnic recordings, sung only by women who inhabited places where the climate tends to be swelteringly hot. The music snakes its way from Southwest Louisiana down into Mexico, Cuba, the Caribbean and South America before hopping the ocean to Europe, dropping in on North and East Africa, and finally cutting a musical swath through India, Burma and Vietnam. Alongside a somehow neglected Cajun tune featuring Cleoma Falcon (wife of famous accordionist Joe), and one from Rita Abadzi, one of the most sensual and well-known Greek Rembetica singers, stand super-unknowns from Chile and Algeria, Tunisia and Tahiti.
While the only thing setting this compilation apart from Pat Conte's redoubtable Secret Museum of Mankind series of the mid-'90s is the focus on women, Crumb, the curmudgeon that he is, makes a good point by not giving much information on the artists. Often little is known about them anyway, and his reasons for loving them so much to begin with have everything to do with the music and nothing to do with their personal lives. On an ever-growing mountain range of 78 rpm-era collections, Hot Women forms one of musical hindsight's loftiest peaks.
As the cartoonist himself once uttered, "Modern music doesn't have that calamitous loss -- people can't express themselves that way anymore." One need only take a quick listen to Algerian singer Aicha Relizania, uttering over a scratchy dry-as-the Sahara flute, to realize just how dead-on Crumb's comment, unfortunately, is.