Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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VARIOUS ARTISTS
The Rough Guide to Congo Gold
World Music Network

Vampire Weekend are just the latest band to embrace this joyful strain of African music

What compiler Martin Sinnock means by "gold" is what the Congolese mean by "rumba"--a relaxed, seductive, brass-tinged, pan-African groove cooler than the high-speed Parisian soukous it morphed into. On this definitive survey, guitars undulate and horns color and voices move heaven and Earth over irresistible bush-grown grooves wiser and calmer than the Cuban rhumba-with-an-h that inspired the style. Accelerating steadily away from circa-1950 godfathers Henri Bowane and Joseph Kabasele, Congo Gold respects all the greats: facile guitarist Dr. Nico, saxophonist-entrepreneur Verckys, restless vocalist-in-demand Sam Mangwana and especially matched bandleading titans Tabu Ley Rochereau, an internationalist whose suave vocal textures lifted any track they graced, and Franco Luambo, a traditionalist whose forthright guitar lines cut his competitors until he died in 1989, pretty much taking rumba with him.

Blender, June 2008