Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Alpha Blondy

  • Apartheid Is Nazism [Shanachie, 1987] B+
  • Cocody Rock!!! [Shanachie, 1988] B-
  • The Prophets [Capitol, 1989] B
  • Revolution [Shanachie, 1989] A-
  • The Best of Alpha Blondy [Shanachie, 1990] A
  • Live au Zenith (Paris) [World Pacific, 1994] Neither
  • Mystic Power [VP, 2013] **

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Apartheid Is Nazism [Shanachie, 1987]
Reggae from a multilingual Ivory Coast star who puts message up front, this probably wouldn't get over on words even if you understood Mandingue or Dioula--in French and English, the politics are naive and toothless. As usual in West African pop, the voice is too mild, and as usual in West African reggae, the rhythm section is too buoyant. But glancing off such dance tunes as "Idjidja" and "Kiti" and, yes, "Come Back Jesus" (not to mention the base-covering "Sébé Allah Yé"), the singing completes an eloquently transatlantic groove--Afropop dread, a fast-flowing stream whose depth can't be fathomed. This achievement is also very West African. B+

Cocody Rock!!! [Shanachie, 1988]
Released Stateside more than four years after it was recorded, this proves he's subject to the usual concepts of stylistic development--likable hit-plus-filler that sounds crude after what followed. B-

The Prophets [Capitol, 1989]
Praying that he's Bob Marley, the U.S. major bites. And gets a professional reggae album with the drums too loud, sliding gradually from felt convention to grooveful genericism. Most remarkable thing about it is the dedication, to "the planet Earth" and various oddly spelled principals in the battle for Israel. B

Revolution [Shanachie, 1989]
Finally the great weird one he had in him. Its seven cuts include a chanson in Dioula, a crude, endearingly right-on crossover bid called "Rock and Roll Remedy," and the Solar System vamping for 10 minutes behind a speech by Côte d'Ivoire's 84-year-old president Félix Houphouêt-Boigny, a Francophile bourgeois as unrevolutionary as any head of state in Africa. Wish my French was up to what the Old Man is saying; wish my Dioula was up to what the songs about bleeding and elections are saying. I do know that the lead love song ends up in a mental hospital, because it's in English. A-

The Best of Alpha Blondy [Shanachie, 1990]
Unless some dancehall visionary has escaped notice, this cosmopolitan Rasta is the great reggae hope. Forget Majek Fashek, even Lucky Dube--the African skank of the Ivoirian's Solar System Band makes the Wailers themselves sound a trifle straight. And on half these gloriously hypnotic tracks they get their chance--though because he's an equal opportunity Africanist, he allots them their fair share of weird sound effects and polyglot righteousness. Marcus Garvey words come to pass. A

Live au Zenith (Paris) [World Pacific, 1994] Neither

Mystic Power [VP, 2013]
Ancient Afro-reggae king begins strong, and maybe "La Bataille d'Abidjan" and "Danger Ivoirité" sound more that way to those who know exactly what they have to say ("Hope," "J'ai Tué Le Commissaire") **