Francis Bebey/Joan Soriano
Francis Bebey: African Electronic Music 1975-1982 (Born Bad)
I first encountered this genial Camerounian savant via his pioneering if romantic 1969 overview African Music: A People's Art. But though I knew from the book jacket that he'd worked for UNESCO and published novels, the albums that trickled my way‑-sanza exhibit, wan protest songs, retrospective miscellany‑-seemed too schematic musically. So I never grasped that this public intellectual was a successful creator of singing commercials and African hits until this conceptually cockamamy attempt to stir up the hipsterati by linking songs notable for their jingle quotient to electronica. Created on a primitive synthesizer in Paris, they're above all winning and catchy, their sonics almost as quaint as thumb piano by now. Though half are also on La Condition Masculine, which is generally deemed Bebey's best album, this selection is hookier from the just-released "New Track," whose subject is white starchy foods, to "The Coffee Cola Song," whose subject is the cash economy. Dieu merci, both are in English, which helps the French ones fit in‑-the instrumentals too. And "Divorce pygmee" and "Pygmy Love Song" have it both ways, clarifying between them the bemused respect with which this cosmopolitan Protestant regards his native continent's profusely musical peoples. A MINUS
Joan Soriano: La Familia Soriano (iASO)
Usually I find bachata too mild‑-a homogenized and slightly speeded-up MOR in which sentimental Dominican bolero slackens tensile Cuban son. But Soriano's guitar is so nimble and articulate you forgive him his pleasantries, and on his second U.S. album his sisters add sweet and spicy accents to his beseeching vocals, which may deliver the Spanish lyrics but seldom leap any language barriers. Bright, playful, feisty, flirtatious, Nelly and Griselda are the love objects the graceful runs and articulate phrases Joan's playing imagines. B PLUS
Dr. Christgau,I want you to review Hot Chip's new album"In our heads",mostly due to the song"night and day" I favor,which is humorous ,and sounds like JT's"cry me a river".
Also,there's the dark, swirling techno of "Flutes", the up-with-movement electro-gospel of "Ends of the Earth", and, most notably, "Let Me Be Him". The song's a seven-minute-plus odyssey that lovingly glides through miles of endless warmth, its final destination a tropical utopia slathered in snatches of Balearic guitar that drip with sticky nectar. "Let Me Be Him" is one of the finest songs Hot Chip have put to tape, and from Goddard's lyrical genuflection to a higher power to ****xis-sung line that doubles as a plea for fertile creativity ("Work hard, play hard at work/ Lend me your ideas/ But not too fully formed"), it beats with a bejeweled heart.
Christgau: the writer thanks you.
Bob: the etymologist (as I'm sure you guessed) thanks you just as much.
Well, as to the next EW selections (and I'm suggesting this only because it seems a possibility), if the unnamed one is Golden Horns: The Best of Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar Bob and I will be two in a row, a record Convergence run!
Response #2: Last year Ann Powers reflected that she liked Drake and Nikki Minaj, because unlike so many previous hip hop/pop couples, they actually seemed to like each other. In the spirit of that comment, I would like to note that unlike Rihanna (whose music I like a great deal), Katy Perry (whose music I don't much like, though there are a couple OK songs), and [fill in the blank yourself], Rye Rye sounds like she (1) has sex (2) with people of her, and not her publicist's, choosing and (3) enjoys it very much.
Response #1: At last! A worthy successor to Salt 'n' Pepa! Now how the hell did that take two decades?
"2. Best-ofs: who needs 'em?"
I do, big-time. Just try getting a sense of what, say, disco was about just from performers' regular album releases. You just can't. Even individual performers' best-ofs won't do - you need various-artists comps and lots of 'em. This is true of many many genres. I'm so glad that Xgau has started reviewing best-ofs and comps again.
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.