Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Orchestra Baobab: Pirates Choice [World Circuit/Nonesuch, 2001]
Jazz, r&b, soul, disco, reggae--no African band has ever emulated a New World music as gracefully as this Cuban-style unit, the essence of snazz in '70s Dakar who became old hat when Youssou made his move. They've been my Afropop primer of choice in Puerto Rico for a decade, and this 1982 swan song is regarded as the best of their four estimable albums. It was never officially released here till now, and I used to find it too casual. But as the even more relaxed previously unreleased disc makes clear, getting in the mood is good for your blood supply. Baobab's taste in salsa was charanga in aura if not form, there's no Iberian schmaltz in their singers rough or smooth, and their horn section consists entirely of Issa Cissoko, a drolly doleful individualist whose tenor provided a foil for Barthelemy Attisso's bilingual guitar. A-