Cheb Khaled

Ya Taleb

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Let's start by saying this is not a new Khaled album -- in fact, it's really a Cheb Khaled album, the tracks recorded long before he dropped the "Cheb" (or young) moniker. The liner notes, which give absolutely no information about the tracks, are taken directly from Le Meilleur de Cheb Khaled, issued in 1991 (as are a few of the cuts), which tells you, basically, that they were probably recorded early on during his career, in Algeria, or maybe shortly after he reached France -- in other words, the time he was establishing his reputation as the King of Rai. And don't ask who he duets with on a couple of tracks here, because it's largely guesswork, except for Cahaba Zahouiana on "Ana Bia Taxi." That all said, the music is fabulous, with plenty of creative arrangements, especially on "A Camel" (aka "La Camel") and the driving "Ya Taleb." Khaled is in wonderful voice throughout, signing like his life depends on it -- which, perhaps, it did to him. The rai is raw, powered by pounding percussion and synthesizers, and in many ways better than most of the work Khaled has done since he became famous, although much rawer. Go into this album knowing all that, and you can enjoy it on its own terms.

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