Black Ivory Soul by Angélique Kidjo
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's previous albums have been decidedly patchy affairs, with tracks ranging from the sublime to the abysmal. With Black Ivory Soul
, however, Kidjo strikes a lovely and generally consistent note. Exploring the connections between her native Benin and Brazil's Bahia region, she makes beautiful music flavored by two continents on songs such as "Tumba," with its crisp but subtle percussion driving a lilting melody, or "Afrika," where the cascading notes of the kora
help bridge the Atlantic. Co-writing with talents like Carlinhos Brown and Vinícius Cantuária has helped; they've toned down the R&B influence than ran through Oremi
and replaced it with something more individual. Kidjo sounds strongest when she's very rootsy, as on her cover of Gilberto Gil's "Refavela," which stands in stark contrast to the bland "Iwoya," a duet with Dave Matthews that sounds like nothing more than a calculated shot at radio airplay. Even the odd track out, a version of "Ces Petits Riens" by Serge Gainsbourg, works because of its spare delight. In following her muse and her history, Kidjo has produced her best work to date. --Chris Nickson