Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-11-08


Black Stars: Ghanas Hiplife Generation (Out Here, 2008) The African ability to manufacture major exhilaration out of marginal economics is a skill young American musos should wrap their minds around. These 14 tracks, selected by ace German compiler-annotator Georg Milz from the decade-plus history of a broadly conceived genre that's not about to quit, modernize highlife with electronics, rap, and the occasional excursion into reggae. Their only program is getting parties started. These parties are as raunchy as they wanna be--"Toto Mechanic" means "Pussy Mechanic" in Ga. But they're markedly more relaxed than, for instance, the HI-NRG bashes evoked by VP's new Ultimate Soca Gold Collection--as if they've figured out that the toto feels better to both partners when all day and all night includes breathers. A-

Sofrito: Tropical Discotheque (Strut, 2011) The title means exactly what it says. Selected by a London dance collective called Sofrito, which is also the name of a fatback-based Puerto Rican staple, two-thirds of these 15 obscurish dance tracks are from the disco era of 1976-1980, almost all sound it a little, and all are from Africa, Colombia, and the Caribbean. Like a DJ set designed to blast rather than lure you out of your seat, they start strong, end classic, and let you sit down in the middle. Whether they achieve their pan-tropical goals is unclear; I probably prefer the African tracks--especially the Zaiko Langa Langa spinoff "Je Ne Bois Pas Beaucoup"--because I always prefer the African tracks. So let me now praise two barn burners I would never otherwise have checked out: a lead cut featuring cumbia stalwart Lisandro Meza and--from Guadeloupe, whose music generally leaves me feeling like I haven't eaten--a speedy call-and-response workout by gwo ka drummer Ti CÚleste. DJ-annotator Hugo reports that this is his crate-digging crew's most-played track. You can hear why. A-

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