It was always going to be difficult for Malian duo Amadou & Mariam to follow up their sensational 2009 album Welcome to Mali, writes Loyd Gedye.
Amadou & Mariam - Folila
That album's incessant feel good factor, coupled with its killer pop hooks and great collaborations was a high point in the duos career and one that established them as global pop stars.
Opener Sabali, which the band wrote and recorded with Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz fame, was a dance floor anthem, all disco bounce and scintillating vocals, which took the world by storm.
Fast-forward to 2012 and the duo have returned with their new album Folila, which was recorded twice, once in New York with guest artists like Santigold, Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner, Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears, Theophilus London and members of Afrobeat group Antibalas and New York rockers TV on the Radio.
Also joining the band was controversial French rocker Bertrand Cantat, who in 2004 was sentenced to eight years in jail for beating his then girlfriend to death after an argument.
He was released in 2007 after serving half of his term and re-launched his music career in 2010 and now finds himself jamming with Africa's pop superstars.
Once the duo had completed the New York recording sessions for the album, they returned to Mali's capital in Bomako and once again recorded the album, this time using Malian musicians.
The resulting album blends elements from these two sessions, sometimes within the same song, giving a truly global feel to the album.
However, the recording strategy is also probably the reason that the album doesn't feel as consistent as Welcome to Mali.
In other words it was an interesting idea, but it doesn't quite work.
But let's not be too critical, after all this is an Amadou and Mariam album and they are the king and queen of African pop, at least in the West's eyes.
So naturally there are some great songs on Folila, such as opener Dougou Badia, which features American pop star Santigold.
The song starts with Amadou on guitar and Mariam's voice with some light cowbell rhythm.
After a minute the songs begins to explode into life as Santigold struts in on vocals and some roaring guitar from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner compliments Amadou's axe-work.
It's a storming way to open the album and initially gave me faith that Amadou & Mariam had actually managed to top Welcome to Mali.
Wily Kataso, which features Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone from TV on the Radio on vocals and Malian musician Bassekou Kouyate on Ngoni, is a slow groove that brings the musical heritage of Maliinto the world of American soul, with great funk-guitar work from Amadou and Zinner.
Another highlight is Africa Mon Afrique, which features most of the Malian musicians, is a horn-driven, reggae-infused stomper with some great vocals from Cantat, while C'est Pas Facile Pour Les Aigles is a pop nugget with some sugary pop vocals from British newcomer Ebony Bones and some great horn work from Jordan McLean, Nadav Nirenberg, Stuart Bogie and Jared Tankel from Antibalas.
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