Solid as the Stones
Orchestra Baobab: La Belle Époque: Volume 2 1973-1976 (Syllart)
Proud owner of their early N'Wolof, which focuses on the pioneering Wolof traditionalist Laye M'Boup, and of the late-'70s Paris sessions released decades ago as On Verra Ça, I thought I had all the early Baobab I needed and most of what there was. Now I doubt that even this follow-up to the 1971-77 first volume reviewed below gets it all. As Florent Mazzoleni's français-seulement notes make (somewhat) clear, they released many (shortish) albums back when they were the toast of the post-colonial elite at downtown Dakar's Club Baobab. Salsa was the rage of Senegal's emergent ruling class, and there was always clave near the heart of Baobab's groove. But cosmopolitanism was also on the agenda of a multitribally multilingual unit that could bring off its worldwide ambitions because its band sound was as solid and unmistakable as the Rolling Stones'. Hear them run King Curtis over Jimmy Cliff on "Issa Soul" or go all-out JB on "Kelen Kati Leen," try an uptempo blues on "Sey" or a careful bolero on "Cabral," remember their roots on "Nidiaye" or stretch out San Francisco-style on "Sibou Odia." Hear Togolese Barthelemy Attisso run the show without ever hogging the spotlight. A MINUS
Orchestra Baobab: La Belle Époque 1971-1977 (Syllart)
This two-CD import has many discographical drawbacks. The adequate audio on the first disc, all or most of which was recorded live without audience in an empty club, could be more forceful and distinct. It shares the preponderance of its second disc with Nick Gold's On Verra Ça comp and a few tracks with the somewhat superior archive dig N'Wolof. Individual selections have been reinterpreted on Baobab's reunion CDs, picked up on this or that Afrocomp, and/or recycled on cheesier reissues. So as an economic matter this iteration of their early recordings, trending Latin and also often featuring Laye M'Boup‑-although note Rudy Gomis's star turn on the climactic "Yen Saay," which does have a studio sheen‑-may seem a redundant extravagance to some old fans. If so, however, I urge them to seek out not just "Yen Saay" but the gorgeous "Baobab Gouye Gui"/"Geeja Ngala Riir"/"Samaxol Fatou Diop" sequence, preceding it with "Jarraf" if they don't know N'Wolof, where it's called "Yaraf." Also, um, "Ndaga"/"El Vagabonde" up front is pretty sweet. Et cetera. B PLUS
I'm fascinated by the disdain below for Michael Clarke, who indeed, as Xgau notes, was "not there." Those who want a little insight into this (as well as more proof than you want of what an asshat David Crosby is) should check out the end of the reissue for Notorious Byrd Brothers, in which the band records "Dolphin's Smile" (my favorite Crosby track, btw) and Crosby continuously stops the proceedings to berate to Clarke (in a calm, groovy way, of course) about his playing. It's like the "I've Got a Feeling" rehearsal scene in Let it Be, albeit at a lower level of talent.
Let it also be said Clarke didn't **** up Sweetheart of the Rodeo, mostly because Roger and especially Gram were so on no one noticed.
(Too many parenthetical asides, too lazy to edit myself tonight.)
According to me, the great Van Dyke Parks album is Moonlighting: Live at the Ash Grove (1998), which keeps it simple and showcases his undeniable talents. Does include -- how about that -- a rendition of "The All Golden."
Nah. The Madcanuck Laughs, maybe.
"doubt I ever listened to all of the Jarrett."
I've often suspected that he didn't, either.
I also like and go along with Milo's list, though I have some weird respect for the Bulgarians and doubt I ever listened to all of the Jarrett.
Just for fun, here's a 10-disc set called
Masterpieces From Hell
No Shaggs-type stuff here. All performers are talented in the conventional sense.
Works, some obscure and some less so, were all at one time or another wildly over-praised, still have their defenders and in general are more fun to hear about than hear.
Almost certain that nobody will agree with all the selections.
David Ackles, American Gothic
The Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir Les Mystere Des Voix Bulgares
Gene Clarke, No Other
Snoop Doggy Dogg, Doggystyle
Danny Hathaway, Extensions of a Man
Keith Jarrett, Sun Bear Concerts
Nico, The Marble Index
Van Dyke Parks, Song Cycle
Lou Reed, Metal Machine Music
Skip Spence, Oar
Feeling Gravitys Pull
Maps And Legends
Fall On Me (original lyrics)
Green Grow The Rushes
So. Central Rain
Have You Ever Seen The Rain?
Can't Get There From Here
King Of The Road
Seven Chinese Brothers
Auctioneer (Another Engine)
Old Man Kensey
Theme From Two Steps Onward
Toys In The Attic
See No Evil
Ghost Riders In The Sky
(Don't Go Back to) Rockville
We Walk-Falling In Love Again-Behind Closed Doors
Paint It, Black
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.
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