Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Tabu Ley Rochereau: The Voice of Lightness [Sterns Africa, 2007]
The master of Congolese song is the rare singer whose sound signifies like a great jazz horn player's--hear, for instance, how his velvety tenor lifts his duets with his Diana Ross-like consort Mbilia Bel on her accompanying compilation. And that was toward the end of the long peak that begins very near the beginning of this sumptuous 29-track double. Dividing neatly between his African Fiesta National and Afrisa International band, the name switch that more or less marked his realization that first the double-sided 45 and then the LP were means to the authenticité of long, instrumentally expansive recordings, so it's more songful on the 18-track 1961-1969 disc and more grooveful on the 11-track 1969-1977. But even toward the end, with "soukous" becoming a byword, the lilt of classic rumba gently prevails. A+