Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Etoile de Dakar: Volume 1: Absa Gueye [Sterns, 1993]
Supposedly, Youssou N'Dour has gone onto better things than these first recordings, cut in 1979 with the seminal band he formed two years earlier at age 18. And without doubt his music has grown more ambitious and more accomplished. But there's nothing youthfully naive or folkishly charming about mbalax at this stage of evolution. Counterbalancing clavé-inflected sway with hectic tama-drum interjections, making ample room for guitar and horns, it never shrinks from its own complexities or sinks under their weight. With five band members writing, many of the 10 tracks grab you at every turn. And unlike N'Dour's always admirable and usually enjoyable internationalist fusions, they never overreach. A