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Rail Band
3: Dioba
Sterns (

We often toss around words like classic and essential with abandon when talking about music, and then regret it when we see them in some archive years later. I have no trepidation about using the words here, for the band or for this 2 CD set of recordings, the third and final edition of Stern's Rail Band retrospective. I have lived with many of these tracks for so long that I know them by heart, can hum a few guitar solos and remember where the scratches are in some of the old vinyl. So when I say these are classic tracks (recorded between 1970 and 1983) by an essential band from Mali, I say it with confidence. Just a list of the artists is enough to confirm it: Salif Keita, Mory Kanté, Makan Ganesy, Lanfia Diabaté, Sekou Kouyaté, Sekou Kanté and Djelimady Tounkara to name just some of the great musicians who graced this band.

The set is not in chronological order; it dives right in with a later track, the 1983 gem "Bedianomogo" with its shimmering guitars, slightly cheesy keyboard and Sékou Kanté's voice propelling it casually forward. It is immediately followed by the sinewy Afrobeat tribute "Sinsimba" from 1977, horns blaring and Mory Kanté carrying the vocals. In 19 tracks, it is hard to note which are the standouts, but not to be missed are Salif Keita's "Soyomba" and "Maki", both from 1973; and 1975's "Jurukan" with Mory Kanté exhorting us to listen closely to guitar player Djelimady Tounkara, because "He's going to raise hell tonight." The whole band raised a lot of hell for a long time, at that rail depot in Bamako, and then around the world. - CF

Note: The first two sets in this series, Soundiata and Mansa, and are equally well done, might I say, essential. All come with good histories and track notes, and are well mastered for CD. True addicts like we here at RootsWorld probably want to hear them all.

CD available from cdRoots

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CD available from cdRoots

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