At this time of the year we are often confronted with the implications of living in the Nether- or lowlands. When autumn humidity combines with low temperatures and absence of wind, the ideal circumstances are created for that disturbing meteorological condition called "fog".
Last week, cycling back from work, I drove straight into an extremely dense patch of this miraculous substance. Immediately my vision was reduced to less than 10 metres; all I could see was the eerie reflection of my bike's headlight in the white mist. Cars - only a few metres away - appeared to have been transposed into another, parallel dimension. I could only hear a muffled 'swish' as they passed.
Call it synchronicity, or devine intervention even (only for those with a dramatic disposition...), but that very same evening I was 'reorganising' some records and one of these fell to the ground. I had been searching for that lp for quite a while and apparently I had misplaced it during an earlier 'reorganisation'.
The lp is one of the albums by the Rail Band released in the 1970s on the Kouma label. Some, if not all, of the tracks of the other Kouma lp's have been re-released in digital form on a Sonodisc cd (CDS 7051) and more recently on the three volumes (six cd's) of the Sterns Belle Epoque series*, but this one has, as far as I know, escaped the attention of the digitisers.
And although on the one hand that may be considered a regretful oversight, on the other hand I am not so sorry. Because this is one of those rare lp's that should be left alone. Untouched, with its muffled sound, a relic from a distant and foggy past.
Salif Keita may consider his work with the Rail Band at the Buffet de la Gare in the centre of Bamako as inferior to his later work with Les Ambassadeurs, I am inclined to disagree. And this album is crucial evidence for my case.
The two sides of the lp are in fact one long track, with a series of topics addressed using classic themes like "Djandjon", "Koulandjan" and "Belebele".
The opening is almost as classic, with Tidiani Koné's trumpet leading a brilliant horn section. The pace is steady, bordering on slow, with Salif making his entrance after 2'20. Although at the beginning of his career, his voice already has the stabbing quality which brought him fame on a world-wide scale, almost piercing through the dense fog. Almost......
Kouma KLP 1042
* I have to add that I am not too crazy about the mixing up of the original records in these three volumes. What's wrong with sticking to something of a (chrono-)logical order?