Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Rough Guide to Raï [World Music Network, 2002]
Although I could easily manufacture Islamic dynamite (secular, true, but so's Saddam) from my own store of cunningly concealed materials (if the inspectors don't spy the chaba between the Faces and Donald Fagen, am I really obliged to point her out?), I've never heard a rai compilation that made me want to party till I puked. Ben Omar Rachid's hard-to-find Tunisian Oujda-Casablanca Introspections still comes closest, but for something more representative this will have to do. It flattens when you want it to rev, decelerates awkwardly for godmother Cheikha Remitti, and kisses Cheb Mami's pert ass. But its highlights include an intense opener from cross-dressing Abdou, desert romance from the murdered Cheb Hasni, and Cheb Zahouani's "Moul El Bar," "The Barman" to you, about partying till you puke. A-