November 21, 2010

Mist of time

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?


bolingo69 said...

Thank you for netting this one. Had you not, I am certain that it would have gone unheard for still some time! Nice post! Thank you very much!

I enjoy these records so much that I guess I am finally finding some refuge back in the times of my lost youth. Very nostalgic really, but also a chance to prolong ones prime years ..


Andrés said...

Wonderful, thank you!

gracenotes said...

Sublime, wonderful album, as evocative as any African recording ever made. Thank you very much, as ever.

I entirely agree about the official reissue programme – the only reason I can think of for mixing up the tracks on the Belle Epoque series was to ensure that buyers got all three volumes, as that was the only way you could be sure of hearing the whole of any of the original LPs! Sorry, just being cynical – I’d have bought them all anyway! And I had fun breaking it all up into playlists so that I could hear the albums as originally intended (thanks to Graeme Counsel’s discography). I’ve never yet played any of the CDs through in the order they were reissued.

DJ Daudi said...

This is one of those albums I saw in a store in the 70s and wanted to buy but did not. I later heard it and spent 30 years kicking myself. I can stop now. Thanks to you!

Rhythm Connection said...

Thanks so much for this exquisite record. I've got a mint copy of the Melodias record from that Kouma series, but like the above comment, also failed to snag this one long ago when it was available. If I could nudge you to 320 bps, perhaps the muffled sound would be a little less muffled for the rest of us.

WrldServ said...

@Rhythm Connection: I'm afraid even a FLAC-version won't clear up the 'muffledness' of this lp...

trumpetaaa said...

beautiful music !! many thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

Dear Worldservice, really I have enjoyed the introduction to the album, seems that the mind owns one lucided extra after risking the life.
But I request to you warmly, that you use the public transport in fog days,there are many of us that we followed to you with great satisfaction.

On the album I agree in which sometimes as in this album theRail Band has a serenity and produces a so intimate sound that it is unique,also Tidiani's sax is fantastic.
I ask myself if the deaf sound is due to the pressing of the vinyl, because sometimes a detailed recording of the instruments is guessed but gives the sensation of having lost the definition at some time of process.
Thank you very much in any case, it continues being exquisite.

trumpetaaa said...

some requests:
1 mystere jazz timboctou
2 sory bamba
thank you

WrldServ said...

@trumpetaa: Sory Bamba is certainly in the plans for the near future. And I'll consider Mystère Jazz.

@Ngoni: At no time was my life at risk, I can assure you. I was going very slowly....

All the Kouma records have a kind of misty sound. This can even be heard on the CD's. I don't think it's the vinyl.