Various Artists

Compilation Orchestres Congolo-Zairois 1967/1968/1970/1974

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With tracks recorded in 1967, 1968, 1970, and 1974, this compilation presents a chronological mini-panorama of the changes within the Congo/Zaire music world at a critical juncture. These are more James Brown acolytes, and it's quite probably the best single volume in this series of compilations chronicling the major and minor bands of the golden age of Zaire/Congo music.

Trio Madjesi de Sosoliso's flash costumes and stage shows made them popular with the youth crew, but the music's there to back it off. Active guitars start circle riffing with prominent horn chip-ins on "Massengo," but wear a little thin on "Madjesi." "Butteur" bounces back with guitars churning out a strong groove and sax playing off the backing voices before the lead vocal takes over. It's smooth and generates momentum, right through the lead whistling and then back to braying saxes and driving guitars. The JB influence is clear on "Coup Eranc" as very strong, staccato horn riffs over smooth unison vocals ride the guitar melodies. A single horn comes in with squawks and honks before the whole section gives rowdy, majestic support. The underlying groove gets close to a JB prototype with picked notes and rhythm chicken scratches in the guitar and a looping, upper register bass. Good start, but Negro Success is even better, maybe the single most impressive of the major minor bands. Snappy horns, guitars ringing a bell, stop-on-a-dime arrangements, clear sound and Franco's younger brother, Sigon Bavon-Bavon, as charismatic frontman was the group recipe. All those elements come into play on "Mokili," even if hints at a "La Bamba" groove for "Lucie" don't go anywhere. "Etabe" works up serious excitement working with loud guitar riffing front and center while a braying sax dodges in and out, and "Maseke" ups the intensity/energy level another notch. After that, Kwamy and Les Bantous de Brazza sound so old-school smooth they tend to slip right on by, even with the jazz guitar touches and horns ending "Zala," or the bell-like guitar in "Tomeseni." Orchestre Veve enters with horns and force, not surprising since leader Verckys was the Zaire/Congo version of King Curtis with Franco. "Ekwile Ferros" is loud and rowdy with intricate guitar licks rising up to resolve in a series of exchanges between guitars, horns, and the vocal tag team. The guitars dominate "Nabwaki Nsoi" at first, but Verckys' very extroverted solo whoops and provides even more spills and thrills than the Zaire/Congo sax solo norm he created. This one's a keeper, folks. The groups are important major minor bands historically, and more importantly, the performances are strong, varied, and very enjoyable.