The Lost Album resurrects six lengthy and largely acoustic tracks recorded in 1980 by West African singer Salif Keita and his longtime collaborator, guitarist Kante Manfila. Musical partners since the late '60s, first in the Rail Band and then in Les Ambassadeurs Internationaux, Keita and Manfila seem to be moving away from that group's somewhat westernized Afro-pop sound with these sessions. This is not to say that these are all traditional African musical forms: although the hypnotic "Toura Makan" sounds like it could have fit on one of the Nonesuch Explorers collections, Manfila's opening showcase "I Djo Fama" begins with a double-tracked acoustic guitar figure that's been processed to sound like Mike Oldfield's trademark half-speed guitar experiments. The arrangements are stripped down and the production medium-fi at best; some percussion, kalimba, a bit of trumpet, and a female vocal chorus make occasional appearances (frustratingly, there are no personnel or recording credits), but throughout, the focus remains on Keita's spellbinding vocals. Free of the synthesized gloss of his breakthrough solo albums from later in the decade, The Lost Album features a young Keita in a slightly rougher but warmly intimate musical setting.
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason