Monday, August 18, 2008

RAIL BAND - Belle Epoque Volume Two - Mansa (Stern’s)

Volume Two of the Rail Band Belle Epoque series continues its slightly wayward but always intriguing path through the great Malian band's early years (1970-1983) and this time focuses mainly on what is termed the second period, post-Salif Keita and at a time when Djelimady Tounkara wove his languorous, kora-like guitar figures around horn fanfares and Mory Kanté's high, declamatory vocals. Magan Ganessy and Djelimady Sissoko add less exalted but no less effective vocals, and the band swings between urgent dance tunes lightly dusted with the remnants of earlier Cuban influences and the rolling, slower-paced, unfolding epics that went on to dominate the repertoire of later period Rail Band. A couple of those later tracks feature here, one of which (Konowale) features Congolese rumba guitar by Tounkara that wouldn't be out of place on a Franco track. The compilation is rounded off by a handful of 'first period' Rail Band tracks that mark out the astonishing development of Keita as a vocalist, from his raw, almost nervous contributions in 1970 to the more recognisable soulful wail of Kankoun, recorded in 1973. The one and only complaint about this excellent series is that we are not able to follow these developments chronologically. That's what iPod playlists are for I suppose, although you wouldn't want to deny yourself the full package offered here, informative sleevenotes and evocative photos being the stock in trade of these fondly put together Stern's releases.

Stern's website

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