Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Youssou N'Dour: 7 Seconds: The Best of Youssou N'Dour [Columbia/Legacy, 2004]
An awkwardly conceived recap of N'Dour's '90, '92, and '94 crossover albums, with 2000's Joko also well represented but the '84, '86, or '89 attempts mysteriously passed over. Scanning its titles, you might wonder how many songs he recorded in English, as Columbia hopes. But though English lyrics are commoner than usual--notably the Neneh Cherry title collab--for the most part this is Wolof moralizing as hooky and guitaristic as N'Dour can stand. The low points are "Undecided (Japoulo)," recorded with Euro-American musicians in Dakar, and a mercifully suppressed rendition of "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da." The previously unreleased-in-America "Please Wait" and "Don't Look Back" are much better, as is the live "Set." But if you're interested in his crossover tendency, which certainly repays the attention, better to swallow it in album form on Set or Eyes Open. [Recyclables]