Analog Africa’s compilations are always among the most carefully researched, compiled, painstakingly mastered, and exhaustively annotated, and Angola Soundtrack, the compilation that closes out the label’s 2010 releases, is no exception. Label boss Samy Ben Redjeb’s record-collecting journey this time out took him to three continents over a period of a couple of years to find recordings and finally to Luanda itself. After buying, borrowing, and listening to literally hundreds of sides (he has a novel to write about his travels this time and should someday), he narrowed it to these 18 cuts, and they are a revelation. The contents focus on eight years between 1968 and 1976: from the period near the end of Angola’s independence war with Portugal and the early years of its own civil war. The music here is a heady mix of traditional Luandan island rhythms, as they met musical styles from other African countries and those of the Latin American continent, the Caribbean, and American and European rock, soul, and funk. The electric guitar -- which was a popular element of the music from nearby Congo during these years -- plays a central role, as do innovative polyrhythmic tendencies that meld various musical traditions into something uniquely Angolan. The sequencing of these vocal and instrumental tracks on this set tells its own story, from its folkish origins through to a developmental period of reaching outside of itself into global grooves. Highlights include "Ilha Virgem” by Jovens do Prenda; the African salsa of “Mi Cantando Para Ti” by N'Goma Jazz; the driving “Passeio Por Luanda” by Alliace Makiadi; and the horn-and-guitar overdrive that is “Eme Lelu” by Quim Manuel o Espiritu Santo. The lengthy, hypnotic jam “Massanga Mama,” which closes the set, includes everything from reggae to son to electric blues, and is alone worth the price of admission. Add Ben Redjeb's authoritative liners -- with some considerable co-authoring from African history professor Marissa Moorman -- and interviews with many of the artists here and from the period, and you have not only an indispensable compilation of Angolan popular music, but an irreplaceable one.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek