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THE IMPOSTERSary Couzens

A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

Vieux Farka Toure’s second album Fondo is a real joy for many reasons. This, Toure’s first album of self-composed music, (apart from one traditional track), is full of compellingly rhythmic, deeply resonant tracks which, from the first listening, work their heady magic, ultimately leaving one with a sense of timeless and place as welcome and refreshing as it is commendable.

 

Photo by Lassi Kone

 

The opening track, ‘Fafa’ is beautifully expansive, with Toure’s elegantly expressive guitar weaving its wafting web above his singing, rendering them, together, as enticing as a sea of colourful and fragrant flowers. It is a deeply soulful track, that you will want, or need (depending on how stress ridden you are) to hear again and again. The more up-tempo ‘Ai Haira’ takes us on a journey across the land, and down the path that Toure traverses on this album, exploring its theme of ‘fondo’, aka ‘the road’ in many forms, each delightful in its own unique way. Backing vocals accompanying Toure’s similarly heart-felt singing deepen the resonance of both, as stepped up drumming offers invitations to dance, Malian style. The energy is driven up a notch before easing down into blues-based ‘Souba-Souba’ on which Toure’s evocative singing and guitar take precedence, luring us to follow wherever he leads us on his musically motivated trip. One sways with the warming breezes this song conjours forth. Track four, ‘Sarama’ is distinctly dynamic with Toure’s galloping guitar setting the pace ahead of his lyrical, up front vocals, and sensitive back-up singing adding a marked pointedness to the song’s delivery. As the accompanying performer sings behind Toure, the pair generate an excitement that is in itself, as infectious as the superb beats being offered by the group’s hand, and kit drummers. Toure’s electric guitar wails, adding sparks of intrigue, with the singing gradually picking up the elevating pace. ‘Wale’, the album’s lone traditional track, starts off with a beat suggestive of primitive tap dance, allowing for all sorts of Saharan mental imaginings as Toure once again performs double duties on guitar and vocals along with backing singing by Afel Bocoum, who also sang and played guitar with Toure’s late, lauded musician father, Ali Farka Toure, together, capturing some of the intricacies of their culture. ‘Slow Jam’ is all one could hope for in the way of desert blues with Toure’s triumphantly multi-cultural guitar playing overseeing. It’s a real delight in terms of guitar playing with the clear mix allowing for almost palpable sounds of fingering as impressive for their sheer virtuosity as they are for their soaring imaginativeness. ‘Mali’ is naturally, a tribute to Toure and his band’s Niger homeland. Once again, his guitar leads the way and a compulsively intoxicating way it is too. Though this far in, one of the more enticing notions I was entertaining was that in terms of songs, this album would be one without any ‘B’ sides.

Immersing myself in deserted blues with an extra helping of rock oriented topping, I lapsed into a deeply relaxed state of mind, alien to that experienced via Westernised ‘easy listening’ yet perhaps, more ‘at home’ than any I’ve known. I guess you could say that I was at that mid-way point, somewhere between here and there, with a progressively steadier leaning towards wherever Toure and his band were leading. That thinking turned out to be inexplicably accurate as the next track ‘Diaraby Magni’ offers rock steady drumming edging into Dub, via Jamaican inspired vocals, with Toure’s guitar keeping time via richly choppy rhythms, along with essential, bottoming-out, relentlessly grooving bass. A gliding intro by Toure, accompanied by lively bass and drums leads us into his vocals on ‘Cherie Le’, a number with a seemingly happy go lucky vibe that I suspect might have been ironically indicating just the opposite, as a lightly sinister tone lurks beneath its sprightly veneer of cheer. ‘Paradise’, featuring the sublime kora-playing of acknowledged master, Toumani Diabate, a supreme musician who played with Toure’s father and is also responsible for encouraging his son’s career choice in the face of the senior musician’s initial objections, is, altogether as intrinsically fine as the lingering memory of beauty, mellowed over time.  Though I listened to this album in its entirety, twice, back to back, and I had to admit that there were several tracks that struck me as having the staying power to remain on many a playing list of favourites the world over, none comes across as hauntingly beautiful as this one.

That said, the closing track, a sensitively performed reprise of the album’s lilting opener, ‘Fafa’ and the song in its original form are a close second and third, which, is entirely appropriate as fondo is one well-rounded album that will not only linger in your mind, but also, near your CD player, poised for frequent listenings.

 

Photo by Lassi Kone

 

 

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