Various Artists

Rough Guide to Congo Gold

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This definitely does what it promises: 12 tracks and none of them less than classic, with the artist list a who's who of Congolese rhumba. It starts off, as it has to, with Wendo Kolosoy and "Marie Louise," generally acknowledged as the first Congolese rhumba track, then runs rapidly through the music's development to "Azda" by the late Franco with T.P.O.K. Jazz, where the guitars get a workout on the instrumental sebene section. But you can hardly turn around for the star names here -- Papa Noel, Doctor Nico, Tabu Ley Rochereau (who rates three cuts to himself, high praise indeed). The music is uplifting, not just historically but also in the second half of the disc, where it really flexes its muscles, fully mature and happy to explore the form. Of course, with so much excellent material to pick from, it would be a crime to have anything second-rate, but compiler Martin Sinnock has done a first-rate job of illustrating the main components of Congolese rhumba as well as giving an object lesson in what made it so wonderful. Simply listen and learn.

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