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Reviews: Vieux Farka Toure, Live; and King Sunny Ade, Baba Mo Tunde

Touré and Adé: The son of a guitar legend steps out of his father’s shadow, and we have the first album in five years from an artist who is otherwise one of the most prolific on the planet.

Vieux Farka Toure. (Click to visit the artist's website.)

Vieux Farka Touré
Live
[Six Degrees (2010)]

Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré has easily stepped out of the long shadow cast by his father, the late Ali Farka Touré, to establish a niche as one of the most virtuoso electric guitarists to come out of West Africa. Touré’s guitar attack is more aggressive and rapid-fire than that of many of his Malian contemporaries, and this live album showcases his ability to blend his playing and soulful singing with the typical austere settings of the Malian slow blues. Live, recorded at gigs in Colorado, San Francisco, and Australia, highlights the onstage pyrotechnics of Touré and his powerhouse band. The disc does dip heavily into the slow desert blues common to many guitarists from Northwest Africa, with the difference being the way Touré fills the space with dextrous filigrees and arpeggios on a piece like the opening track “Fafa.” On the frenetic “Na Maimouna Poussaniamba,” Touré strays closer to ska or even punk, as he and second guitarist Aly Massaga shred over two chords for most of the song. A couple of tracks feature guests, with producer Yossi Fine providing solid reggae bass on “Diaraby Magni” and slide guitar master Jeff Lang going toe to toe with Touré on “Walaidu.” Live admirably displays the fire of Touré and his band in concert, and should appeal to anyone who loves to hear the electric guitar played impeccably and taken to unexpected places.

—Michael Parrish (San Jose, CA)

[Editor’s note: Touré recently played for the World Cup Kickoff Concert. Although this video doesn’t show of his most pyrotechnical playing, this song, Fafa is one of the highlights of the disc.]

King Sunny Ade's 123rd album.

King Sunny Adé
Bábá mo Túndé
[IndigeDisc (2010)]

Most times you listen to an album, even one by a master, you don’t leave yourself. You are still in your car or house or bedroom. Listen to King Sunny Adé and you are transported to . . . somewhere outside. To those who have listened to their fair share of jam bands (Trey Anastasio of Phish has referenced King Sunny Adé as a cornerstone influence), the destination is tangential—the journey is everything.

Bábá mo Túndé is journey along a path lined with the bantering, syncopated beats of the talking drums of West Africa, the linchpins of the “juju” music that King Sunny Adé has made world-renowned. These drums cut right through everything else, coalescing into a sound that’s remarkably easy to lose yourself in; they are King Sunny Adé’s musical companion, and they tell their own story. You can’t follow the beat; it moves too quickly to walk next to. You can only allow it to wash over you.

The title track and its remix are epic-length recordings that span nearly half of the discs by themselves. But breaking down an album like Bábá mo Túndé song by song would lead to a disappointing place. (If pressed, it could be said, however, that “Baba L’oun S’ohun Gbogbo” is quite possibly one of the most frenetically infectious songs ever created. Yes, there’s some hyperbole there, but not much.) Only by listening to the album in one stroke—both discs—can you immerse yourself in the full experience.

King Sunny Adé has recorded more than a hundred albums in his native Nigeria over an impressively long career that started in 1967. He’s been nominated for Grammys, had music featured in Hollywood movies, and toured steadily for over 40 years. Bábá mo Túndé is his first recording in five years and features everything that has made King Sunny Adé such a force to be reckoned with in the realm of world music. A pedal steel guitar accompanies the talking drums on nearly every track, giving a bit of an Islands feel to the traditional Nigerian music, and some songs feature a soaring, ethereal flavor that would almost seem more at home on a Sigur Rós album. This is a kingly gift full of delightful surprises.

—Michael Tager (Baltimore, MD)

© 2010 DriftwoodMagazine.com, All rights reserved

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