Various Artists

Planéte Zouk, Vol. 1-2

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An abridged version of Volume 1 was reissued as Planet Zouk: The World of Antilles Music (Rhythm Safari), and there are plans to do the same soon with Volume 2. These are compilations of radio hits from a variety of record labels (circa 1988-1991) from Paris and the French Antilles. The cuts feature samples from a Who's Who of Antilles greats, from Kassav', Dede St. Prix, Malavoi, and Ronald Rubinel to lesser-known but also accomplished artists like Edith Lefel, Ralph Thamar, Eric Virgal, and Experience 7. Many good songs can be found here, from the biguine tinges of Thamar's "Polisson" to the underlying soukous feeling of Experience 7's "Goudjoua." Eric Virgal's "Pa Fe Mwen la Pen" is a fine example of zouk-love, while Edith Lefel's lead vocal on her co-composition with Ronald Rubinel ("Sensation") shows the best melding of zouk with American soul sounds, an oft-made attempt that is rarely successful. The fact that these are all radio hits implies a common thread that runs throughout the set of music: strong on formula, weak on experimentation. This is a "safe" set of music, which features good songs but few surprises and few moments of pure zouk ecstasy.