Various Artists

4 Bands 1969-72

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Best guess says this compilation of four- and five-minute songs from four major minor groups in Zaire and Congo was culled from singles released in 1968-72. Bad luck finds ten of the 15 tracks recorded by Les Grands Maquisards and Vox Africa, which means the old-school rumba sound derived from Franco and Tabu Ley Rochereau prevails. Worse, neither group are particularly inspired. Franco associate Ntesa Dalienst headed up Les Maquisards (Sam Mangwana flashed through briefly for a song or two as well, but before they became Les Grands) and consistently relies on mellow, measured guitar lines to complement the restrained voices and contrasting sax solos. "Maria Mboka" is reasonably lively, "2nd Bureau Nganda" has some interesting guitar lines, and there's almost a drum solo in "Biki." "Ida Sambela Ngai" kicks off with nice horn section fanfares and it's the most interesting and exciting piece by a fairly wide margin. The rest are good; they sound professional but are lacking in fire and excitement. Mangwana and Dalienst also passed through the ranks of Vox Africa and the sound on the four tracks here goes back to congas, soothing guitars, and sweet vocals. The arrangements seem to wait on the sax solo to inject any excitement, and "Nzele Sukuma" gets some energy going, but it's not exactly what you'd call a barnburner. You want energy and punch? Head for Conga Succes, who boast a very creative lead guitar doing some interesting comps behind the sax solo on "Ndeki." "Tambola" goes one step further and breaks down to a high-stepping guitar riff with sax over minimal percussion. Continental also features hard-punching horns and guitars, along with Wuta Mayi and Bopol Mansiamina of Les Quatre Etoiles. The guitar solo on "Babkokamwa" drops an early hint of getting the double-time soukous sebene on, and it's a big energy boost after Les Maquisards. The haunting, interlocked guitar hooks and complementary horn riffs on "Mwana Nsamba" also show a sound starting to move toward modern soukous, and the guitarists are more creative than anyone this side of the Conga Succes guy here. Wouldn't be surprising if the tracks by Continental and Conga Succes are the only (or among the handful of) records the bands ever got a chance to make. Too bad they wound up tacked on to a compilation dominated by two groups with bigger names and far less interesting music.

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