There's an old saying that one is only as good as the people with whom one collaborates. Judging by the list of musical contributors to Hector Zazou's Sahara Blue, Zazou is quite good indeed. Among many others, those adding their own touch to Zazou's album include Bill Laswell, Dead Can Dance, John Cale, David Sylvian, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Tim Simenon. Zazou devised the album as a mix of musical styles set to lyrics/vocals taken from the pen of Arthur Rimbaud. While it might appear like a pretentious undertaking on paper, the album is a cohesive slice of eclectic music-making. Jazzy spoken word songs such as "Ophelie" intermingle with throbbing dance-oriented numbers like "I'll Strangle You" and quiet, peaceful piano-based meditations such as "Harar et les Gallas." Dead Can Dance duo Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard work their particular magic on "Youth," exchanging vocals, and on "Black Stream," where Perry's dark, somber synth weeps around Gerrard's stunning vocals and yang chin. Zazou himself mostly stays in the background, providing production and electronic sounds, allowing the players to showcase their abilities. John Cale provides two showstoppers in "First Evening" and "Hunger," his voice never sounding better. All of the musicians and vocalists turn in winning performances, so it's almost not fair to call out specific contributors. Sahara Blue is an album that could have been plodding and obscure, but instead it's mostly quite accessible and emotionally and artistically revealing. Albums dealing so heavily in mood and atmosphere are rarely as full of joy as Sahara Blue.
AllMusic Review by Tim DiGravina