Koffi Olomide – Golden Star

Although his rich and fluid tenor voice remains fabulous, and he continues to crank out the hits, it has been some time since Koffi Olomide has done any truly interesting work from an artistic standpoint – far too long, in fact.
I knew him a bit in the 1990s, when he was still evolving and taking risks, and I listen to his recent stuff in pain because it has become so generic, so repetitive, as he recycles his riffs and lives on his laurels.

That’s not what this post is meant to be about, though. Rather, I want to point fans of Congolese rhumba to what may be his greatest work, this obscure but still available disk, which is a melodic triumph of the first order. One listens and hears a young talent one can easily imagine becoming a sort of Sinatra of Central Africa, so rich is his voice, so sure is his phrasing and timing. The music itself is wonderful, too, not having yet devolved into the formulaic party patterns from his bands that we are so familiar with today.

A must for any fan or collector:

Inside Betty Carter

Not one of the better known albums by the late BC, perhaps my favorite in the immediate post-Sarah, post-Ella generation of female Jazz vocalist.
Betty almost always sang in deeply personal ways about old-fashioned love for her man, but with an emotional truth that put her best work way over the top.
As I sat working on an article this afternoon, I was really struck by her rendition of Some Other Time, which is superb in both its timing and voicing:

“Yes, some other time I could resist you. Not now. There is no word, now that I’ve kissed you with all that is me, honey.
“Imagine me thinking you could never phase me; the tricks my imagination plays on me me.
“You smile and this heart of mine betrays me. You know it is so.
“Let’s take a vow to love forever, not some other time. Let’s wait no longer. Not some other time, but now.”

I must add that This is Always, the first track on the CD is the best version of this song I’ve heard.

Bill Evans – Live at the Village Vanguard

I spend most of my portable music listening time playing my i-whatever on random, as frequently noted here. After wrapping up a lengthy, intense and idea-dense interview with E.O. Wilson here in Mozambique the device served me up this essential Bill Evans work from 1961.

Evans is almost always a special listen for me, inducing both attentiveness and relaxation somehow, and Village Vanguard excels in that regard. A favorite song here: Solar (perhaps Gloria’s Step, too). The bass work by Scott LaFaro is as distinctive as Evans’s exquisitely melodic piano. LaFaro died in an accident just ten days later, in one of those tragic fates that seem so concentrated in our Jazz musicians of the 1950s and ’60s, and would soon enough snare Evans, too.

A must for any Jazz collector.

Survival by Bob Marley

I let the iPod go random most of the time, and today, just after dusk in Maputo it served up two songs from this album, which I hadn’t listened to for quite some time. What powerful music! Could this be Marley’s best? Hard to say, but also hard to beat.
A favorite here? Babylon System.

A sample:
Babylon system is the vampire, yea! (vampire)
Suckin’ the children day by day, yeah!
Me say: de Babylon system is the vampire, falling empire,
Suckin’ the blood of the sufferers, yea-ea-ea-ea-e-ah!
Building church and university, wo-o-ooh, yeah! –
Deceiving the people continually, yea-ea!
Me say them graduatin’ thieves and murderers;
Look out now: they suckin’ the blood of the sufferers (sufferers).
Yea-ea-ea! (sufferers)

Complete lyrics: Click to read more