Monday, August 14, 2006

Abstract Index playlist - Aug 9/06

Will this disc hit the world music glass ceiling?

Ali Farka Toure's latest and last disc, Savane, is his career peak. It's the most moving, emotional, dynamic and instrumentally varied disc of his career. With a large ensemble of n'goni, balafon, kora, and the vital additions of harmonica and Pee Wee Ellis' appropriately braying saxophone, it screams "damn right I've got the blues" from the very first note. Toure has never made a bad album, even his most famous work (some would also say least essential), Talking Timbuktu, is very good. And this one is his best, if not the best IMO.

So will there be five star reviews? Will this be a common top ten pick at the end of the year?I hope so. But so far, I've seen glowing reviews which heap praise on the album, only to give it a respectable 4 out of 5.

What makes an album classic? The elements are all here: great songwriting, performances, production, and imagination. Oh yeah, and he's dead - the best career move anyone can make.

Familiarity does play a part in determining 'classic' ratings. Critics rarely give out 5 stars for music they're not feeling on a gut level. As well, a critic usually has a sense that a classic album is the best an artist can do or will ever do, or that their work is a definitive statement of genre. Savane: check and check. Who in North America is unfamiliar with the blues, even if only through the collective memory of power chords? Malian blues is not all that unfamiliar as a genre either - thank you, Martin Scorsese. This is an album that's intrinsically accessible but still somewhat alien (the violin freakout of "Hanana" is one of many high points). It's the product of someone who's corralled all their remaining energies and deployed them ambitiously and soulfully.

I'm a broken record about this kind of thing, but the modus operandi of many publications is to publish the review for diversity's sake, but otherwise forget about it when the signifigant lists are being made. And that's yet another reason why "world music" continues to be a valid term - when great albums are consigned to permanent outsider status by accident or by design.

This of course is contingent on accepting the premise that anyone cares about five star ratings or end of year reviews - but these are the kind of things that generate "hype"; that ephemeral, much desierd quality that is equalled only by "word of mouth" in terms of promotional gold.

Maybe I just love this disc more than my peers. And four stars is nothing to sneeze at. This will be on my top ten. I certainly hope that other critics review their four star ratings to give it greater consideration at year's end. Maybe this album is four stars with a bullet.

enduring freedom – damsel (temporary residence)
movement 1: wood, metal, skin and strings – tim brady (ambiances magnetiques)
klathmies – datachi (caipirinha)
the anti service syndrome – andrew duke (phthalo)
bougouni sou – lipitone remixed by jeff sharel (frikyiwa)
n’fa - seckou keita quartet (arc)
uncle joe – bob brozman/djeli moussa diawara (celluloid)
cousin joe – sugar belly (soul jazz) the link of the week...
rise and praise – rhythm and sound feat koki remixed by vainquer (burial mix)
mazorodze – stella chiweshe (piranha)
cloak – rob clutton (rat drifting)
sarvodaya – nomo (ubiquity)
suffer MD – ultamagnus (m1)
penda yoro – ali farka toure (nonesuch)
shoo fly – wild magnolias (barclay)
dub tropic – burning babylon (mars)
osmani stepper – systemwide (bsi)
Tk 11 – ring craft posse (moll selekta)
cricket lovely cricket – jah thomas (roots)
Frozen soul – soul vendors (soul jazz)


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