Friday, August 30, 2013


YEAR:  2000
LABEL:  Manteca
TRACK LISTING:  On Entre O.K. On Sort K.O.,  Mpata Ezangi Mokengeli,  Bolingo Ya Bougie,  Luvumbu Ndoki,  Koun Koue! Edo Aboyi Ngai,  Kinsiona,  Azda,  Liberte,  Nalingaka Yo Yo Te,  Laissez Pazzez,  Attention Na Sida
IMPRESSIONS:  Loathe as I am to include "best ofs" on this blog, Franco is something of a special case.  From the time he started recording as a teenager in the 1950s until his death in 1989, Franco recorded some 84 albums and there are something like 150 if you include compilations etc.  In fact, on this very blog I've already posted one of them (which you can go read if you click the "Franco" link at the bottom of this post) and, franc-ly (sorry) this album only differs from that because it's a single disc and that other one has 4 cds in it; and even THAT barely scratches the surface of Franco's best work.  But I will use any opportunity to talk up Franco since his music is some of my favourite of all time and he needs to be better known in this country.  As previously eluded to, this cd is woefully inadequate as an overview of Franco's colossal career but it does contain some of my favourite Franco songs.  Also, this is the first actual Franco cd I ever heard thanks to friend Roxor who mailed it to me in the early noughties.  Roxor had previously sent me a cassette tape of the 1999 career retrospective episode of the Afropop Worldwide radio programme which caused me to fall in love with Franco's music.  Not only did he send me several more Franco cds but also the superb and indispensable Franco biography "CONGO COLOSSUS" which sent me on my way to becoming a ravening Francophile!  "THE VERY BEST OF THE RUMBA GIANT OF ZAIRE" is a short but happy collection of some of le maître's best tracks and would make a great starting point for anyone new to Franco's music.  It spans his entire career from his first big hit "On Entre O.K., On Sort K.O." (which translates into "You enter OK, you leave K.O.'ed" from Franco's powerful music!) and ends with the 80s anti-AIDS epic "Attention Na Sida".  Due to this fact (and the brief nature of a single cd), this album doesn't flow as well as other compilations and the greatly-varied styles of the songs here may be bewildering to some; however as a brief sampler I suppose it serves as a musical appetizer for the much richer main course to be found in the wealth of Franco's output (now happily more readily available on things like iTunes and amazon).  It would be very simple to put "all of 'em" as my favourite tracks from this cd, but I'm going to be scrupulously frugal and force myself to only choose several.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  On Entre O.K. On Sort K.O.,  Koun Koue! Edo Aboya Ngai,  Kinsiona,  Azda,  Liberte,  Nalingaka Yo Yo Te,  Laissez Passez,  Attention Na Sida
FACT SHEET:  THE VERY BEST OF THE RUMBA GIANT OF ZAIRE is a compilation from 2000.  As something of a primer for Franco's soukous sound for the uninitiated, I'll leave it to Robert Christgau from his 2001 Village Voice review:  "First a melodic section following the contours of a lyric that with Franco is almost always in Lingala--a tonal pidgin, originally the patois of the Congo docks, that serves as a kind of working-class West African Swahili--is varied and repeated vocally and instrumentally. And then comes the sebene, soukous's signature selling point, which has been credited to both Franco and one of his mentors, long-repatriated Belgian-born guitarist-producer Bill Alexandre, but which predates both and only flowered in its countless variegations after Zaiko launched their '70s youth movement. The sebene is an "improvisational episode" or "groove" in which three guitarists repeat short phrases off which the lead player improvises, generally remaining close enough to the source riffs to reinforce them and break them down simultaneously. Eventually younger players like Kanda Bongo Man shucked the verse to play nothing but sebene--"speed soukous." The intricate rush of the sebene is what you hear in your head when you recall what soukous sounds like."  ***(all ownership of this quote reside with the original copyright holders credited i.e. Robert Christgau from the Village Voice dated July 1, 2001 and is used here for review purposes.)