A collection culled from some of the early releases on Stern's Africa, while they were still distributing solely to Britain. The aim of this compilation is to present three of the major styles of African music that would appeal to the average newcomer to the music of the continent: Zairean soukous, Nigerian juju, and Ghanaian highlife. With a relatively narrow focus and a relatively small number of albums to take from (Stern's only had 14 releases as of the compilation of these songs), Rounder does well in its job of displaying the best of the day. It's somewhat surprising that some of the larger names weren't present, but that's not to the discredit of the album. While King Sunny Ade and I.K. Dairo aren't present to showcase their juju, Ebenezer Obey (who also introduced the electric bass to the genre) steps in to provide a number, as does juju-pop musician Segun Adewale. On the soukous end, the legendary Tabu Ley provides perhaps the best example of basic soukous, though he has some stiff competition in his protégée vocalist M'Bilia Bel. More interesting, though, is Daouda, hailing from the Ivory Coast, with a slightly new take on the genre. In the highlife section, one finds an electronic expedition from the African Brothers, as well as a more jazz-based outing from the U.K.'s Hi Life International. While there are countless compilations of each of these genres available, the slight diversity inherent in showcasing them together provides a much-needed break from the monotony that occasionally breaks out with a single genre alone. For newcomers to the musics of Africa, this doesn't make for a bad place to start at all. For the more experienced listener, a few more focused albums showing off more acts might be in order.
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AllMusic Review by Adam Greenberg