Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Papa Wemba: Emotion [RealWorld, 1995]
Ominously, this made-for-export enlists Jean-Philippe Rykiel, whose strange keyb technique--suggesting a cross between eternal transcendence and drowning grilled asparagus in Velveeta-melt--already permeates Keita's Soro and N'Dour's Wommat. But with the neofolkloric Lokua Kanza also on hand, its 11-tunes-in-38-minutes constitute the most appealing crossover Wemba has yet devised for the voice his hopes come down to. Piercing and penetrating without a hint of muezzin, he also commands a "natural," "conversational" timbre richer and rangier than that of his more soft-sung Zairean colleagues. A singer you should hear in a showcase you can find. A-