Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2013-01-08


Moreno and L'Orch First Moja-One: Sister Pili + 2 (Sterns Africa, 2012) Batamba Wendo Morris was born in Patrice Lumumba's east Congo hometown in 1955 and died at 38 having migrated to East Africa itself like such fellow Congolese musicians as Samba Mapangala, with whom he sang for a while in a rough baritone pitched so luxuriously low some call it a bass. When he was leading the band, he not only made sure the guitars slackened soukous's high-tension-wire acrobatics in the casual Kenyan-Tanzanian manner but generally gave a single saxophone its say. Recorded in his home base of Nairobi, the 1983 title album comprises four nine-minute tracks, the most notable the half-English closer and "Kaka Puneira Wivu" with its drolly twangy second guitar. The clattery plus two are from 1977, with Tabu Ngongo horning in irrepressibly. A good groove is had by all. A-

Laba Sosseh: Volume 1 (Syllart, 2012) Of griot family, the seminal Senegambian salsero sang forcefully from the sternum and grooved unshakably from the fundament, a principled disciple-evangelist who recorded regularly with Orquesta Aragon in Paris and occasionally with his Manhattan heroes as well. In Dakar he was the dancing master of the postcolonial elite, steadying his bands' Congo-rooted "Latin" beats so that they signified for West Africans. In what I assume is completist grandeur on a two-CD set whose fran?ais-seulement notes are impeccably free of useful detail, these 26 ('70s?) ('80s?) (classic?) (early?) tracks are solid and resonant once the recording quality rights itself. Seldom, however, do they rise above, with the biggest exception the same "Marie Gomis" available in somewhat duller audio on the Sosseh album I've puzzled longest over, Monguito El Unico and Laba Sosseh. Three of the other four tracks on that record also repeat here, with the bonus that this "Yamanekh" adds a speedy and welcome three-minute coda. A titan, definitely, and near as I can tell--compared to Sar's easier-to-find Laba Sosseh, for instance--this is as good as you're liable to find until some saint does a proper comp. B+

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