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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

PIERRE BENSUSAN

By Stacy Meyn
Published September 27, 2005

Altiplanos
Favored Nations

French-Algerian fingerstyle guitar virtuoso Pierre Bensusan follows 2001’s label debut Intuite with his 10th solo album. Altiplanos has something for everyone: vocals, ballads, interludes and improv, all featuring Bensusan’s unique six-string style with ringing false harmonics, deft left-handed hammer-ons and percussive fretboard tapping. Percussionist Blaise Boutlefeu, bassist Michel Benita and saxophonist Didier Malherbe (’70s prog-rock ensemble Gong) join in. The South African-styled “Sentimentales Pyromaniaques” is actually a happy tune. Elegant, Celtic-imbued ballad “La Dame De Clevedon” is trailed by “Sur Un Fil,” a “guitar environment” created by Bensusan’s instrumental and vocal overdubbing. “Altiplanos” is dedicated to French-Columbian Ingrid Betancourt, who ran for the Green Party in the last Colombian presidential election, then was captured and imprisoned by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). Despite audible flu issues, Bensusan flies solo during “Hymn 11,” his homage to victims of terrorism. He grew up listening to Otis Redding and the Platters, and effects are evident in “If Only You Knew.” The slightly bossa nova “Nefertari” is one of several reworked older tunes that benefit from input from Bensusan’s wife and his collaborators. Sumptuous stuff.