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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Present possibilities from DAY TO DAY. In a moment we'll talk about books, but we're going to begin with music right now. We've asked three of our music critics to pick three of their favorite albums from the past year. And today we feature the choices of Derek Rath.

DEREK RATH reporting:

Interest in India's Bollywood film industry has been booming lately, largely through the vibrancy of its music and songs, a vital ingredient in any Bollywood film. For a musical taste of India, there's "Bollywood: An Anthology of Songs From Popular Indian Cinema."

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. ASHA BHOSLE: (Singing in foreign language)

RATH: This two-CD anthology brings together many of Bollywood's greatest songs, singers and composers of the last 50 years. You may not be familiar with names like Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeskhar or Asha Bhosle, heard here, but they are beloved by millions around the world.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. BHOSLE: (Singing in foreign language)

RATH: Then there's "La Kahena" by deejay and producer Cheb i Sabbah. These songs blend the ancient spirits and traditions of North Africa's Maghreb region with a modernist sensibility. In lesser hands it could have turned out as just another set of club beats with exotic samples thrown in for flavor. But this Moroccan- and Algerian-based music is delivered with a sensitivity to the influences that have swept the region for centuries. Cheb i Sabbah, a native Algerian, invited legendary artists from the area to participate in the recording. It makes "La Kahena" a stunning and unusual addition to the lexicon of world electronica.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Woman: (Singing in foreign language)

RATH: Finally, as often happens, a late arrival in the year trumps nearly everything that came before it.

(Soundbite of "Back Water Blues")

Ms. IRMA THOMAS: (Singing) Well, it rained five days and the skies turned dark at night.

RATH: "Our New Orleans" is a collection of specially recorded tracks from some of the Crescent City's musical stars, like this rendition of Bessie Smith's "Back Water Blues" from Irma Thomas.

(Soundbite of "Back Water Blues")

Ms. THOMAS: (Singing) There was trouble taking place in the lowlands that night.

RATH: Recorded in several locations in just one month, this collection includes all genres of New Orleans' legacy from Preservation Hall, Mardi Gras Indians, Cajuns, zydeco and blues. Irma Thomas, who was rendered homeless by Hurricane Katrina, proves herself alive and kicking on this track, accompanied by Dr. John's stormy rumblings on the 88s.

(Soundbite of "Back Water Blues")

Ms. THOMAS: (Singing) Backwater blues have caused me to pack my things and go. Backwater blues have caused me to pack my things and go 'cause my house fell down; I can't live there no more.

RATH: "Our New Orleans" is an album whose music can bring grown men, like myself, to tears, as with Allen Toussaint's minor-key version of the piano classic "Tipitina," here called "Tipitina and Me."

(Soundbite of "Tipitina and Me")

RATH: "Our New Orleans" scores points for intent, quality and historical significance. The profits of CD sales are going to Habitat for Humanity and its reconstruction efforts. For DAY TO DAY, I'm Derek Rath in Los Angeles.

CHADWICK: More music tomorrow and books just ahead. Stay with us on DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

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