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World Music CD Reviews Africa

ALI FARKA TOURE

By TOM ORR
Published March 3, 2006

Red & Green
World Circuit/Nonesuch

Long before Mali’s Ali Farka Toure was a worldwide star and a Grammy winner, he was a celebrity in West Africa and a sound engineer at Radio Mali. The double CD Red & Green (the title is taken from the sleeve colors of the original, untitled vinyl discs) is ’70s/’80s Toure at his lean and basic best. Acoustic guitar, vocals, calabash percussion and occasional n’goni lute is all you’ll hear and all you’ll need. The songs are traditional ones, given extra spark and swing by Toure’s intricately moody playing and quietly wailing voice. The music is as dry as the Sahara and as refreshing as an oasis in the midst of it. The confessional tones of a bluesman, the storytelling urgency of a griot and the spiritual keen of an Islamic mystic have always been the core elements of what makes Ali Farka Toure great. All are solidly on display here, making these recordings the equal of any of the landmark work he’s done since.