It probably helps to define the word "hit" before determining whether this 11-song compilation lives up to its title. If it means that a record must have placed in the Billboard Top Ten in America, then the title is a fib -- not all of these recordings even made the Top 100. And if World Hits is meant to imply that its contents are sung in languages other than English, that too would disqualify this collection: the two reggae tracks, for example, Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come" and Peter Tosh's "(You Gotta Walk) Don't Look Back," which features a guest vocal from Mick Jagger, hail from Jamaica and are sung in English. (Cliff, incidentally, did chart three times in the U.S., but this song, from the soundtrack of the same-named film, wasn't one of them.) "7 Seconds," from Senegal's Youssou N'Dour with Britain's Neneh Cherry, is in English, and the incidental vocal asides in Mongo Santamaria's "Watermelon Man" are too. When South Africa's Miriam Makeba released her "Pata Pata" in 1967 she took a mid-song break from singing in the Xhosa language to explain the song's meaning in English, but the version featured here is a later remake (admittedly, no English in sight). And not all of these artists even come from outside of the U.S.: Santana, its leader's Mexican heritage notwithstanding, hailed from California.
But if World Hits means that there is a certain degree of familiarity to these recordings within the U.S., which has been historically unkind to music from non-English-speaking countries, then all 11 qualify. True, listeners may want to forget Kaoma's "Lambada," whatever planet it came from, and those who frequent certain ethnic restaurants might be happy to never be exposed again to the overplayed Gipsy Kings (non-charting) hit "Bamboleo" in this lifetime. But as an introduction to the very existence of music with roots outside of the continental United States and the U.K., this brief overview is a fun listen, and ultimately worthy. There's only one question: why did the compilers skip over two legitimate foreign-language hits that reached number one in Billboard in 1963: the Japanese Kyu Sakamoto's "Sukiyaki" and the Belgian-born, French-vocalizing the Singing Nun (aka Soeur Sourire)'s "Dominique"? OK, maybe we know why, but just thought we'd ask. ~ Jeff Tamarkin