While I don’t really care about American Football, I have to say I felt a little for the Indianapolis Colts tonight as they trudged off the field tasting the bitterness of defeat at the pinnacle of their sport. I had recently suffered a similarly debilitating loss in the 2010 version of the annual classic, “Sputnik Madness”. Me, the contributing reviewer, was swiftly and clearly beaten by one Prophet. After the game I sat in the locker room with head held in hands, questioning where I should go from that point on. With the buzzing rumours of retirement circling the vulturous media hounds, my mind was in chaos. For whichever way I flew was hell, myself was hell. So what then could possibly sooth me so in this time of dire crisis? With Theodore K. Rabb yelling at me that I was not indeed having a crisis until the time after which had been significantly improved from the time before, I realized I needed to rise out of this funk. This site needs reviews that nobody will read, dammit, and I need some music that will calm me. Enter Lionel Loueke’s newest album Mwaliko.
The album works brilliantly as a come down record, this pleasant slice of African infused jazz had the warm touch to sore my aches and pains better then any Advil ever could. Lying somewhere into the heart wrenching melodies of Ulf Wakenius and the passionate, rhythmic African Blues of Ali Farka Toure, Lionel Loueke’s guitar playing creates an atmosphere of ease. Never over indulging in technicality, there’s enough heart and soul mixed with pure talent to keep the whole affair interesting. After the simple opening track featuring a soulful vocal delivery from Angelique Kidjo, Mwaliko really hits its stride with the spiraling guitar solo on “Griot”. The song encapsulates the more energetic side of the body, which a more percussive feel, but it’s usually the softer side of the group that steals the show. Simplistic, but gorgeously melodic head-to-head tracks “Into to L.L.” and “L.L.”, respectively, boast some of the most poignant moments on the album. These moments generally focus on two main aspects, the fine guitar work of Loueke and the numerous guest vocals.
The unfortunate problem with the album is the overall glacial feel to the proceedings. Not in the hyperbolic, Sigur Ros meaning of glacial, but more in the way that the album begins to blur together in its latter stages. Taken in parts, each piece works magnificently well on its own, especially the absolutely joyous closer “Hide Life”, but taken as a whole the pieces begin to lose their charm. It’s a blessing and a curse, as a shift in dynamic may have cost the atmosphere of the album, but at times the atmosphere itself can become too laid back. It’s a tight-rope that Lionel Loueke generally straddles well and therefore Mwaliko is an overall success. Mixing the upbeat African rhythms with talented and graceful musicianship creates a well crafted, honest and languid listen; even if it lacks a sense of urgency.