Whether or not you need this 2-disc set all depends on the status of your Oumou Sangare collection. It must have been quite a shock and disappointment for people who wanted, but did not yet have all 3 of her previous albums, to see them all go out-of-print. If you do not own any or all of Woroton, Moussoulou, or Ko Sira, you need to buy this. Period. If you already own all 3, this is not an essential purchase for you. That could be considered the end of my review, for all intents and purposes.
I have all 3 and when I saw the release of this disc, I have to admit I was disappointed. In a perfect world, the 3 previous albums would have stayed in print, and this would have been a 2 or 3-disc set made up of live material as well as the new (to those of us not in Africa) studio tracks included here that are from the Africa-only cassette release, Laban. This would have been my first choice because that way we all would have gotten much more new material. Let's face it, anyone who has heard Oumou in concert knows that she is phenomenal. I can't imagine anyone who has been to her concerts not thinking it was one of the best concerts they have ever been to. She is truly a gift to us all. Chicago '99 is the performance that proves this to me.
Even though I was disappointed to see that the vast majority of this set is previously-released material I already owned, I still had to buy it. I had heard OF the Laban cassette in the past couple years but never heard it, and it kinda drove me nuts knowing there was new Oumou out there that I couldn't get my hands on. Now that I have heard the new stuff, it turns out that (at least in my opinion) none of the new tracks are at the level of the older stuff. It's not that I don't like the songs, though. It's the fact that the new stuff is more electronic. I prefer stripped-down Oumou. For me, she could do an album with nothing more than herself, her female back-up singers, a ngoni and a calabash player and *POOF*, magical album. The new tracks are the exact opposite of that. Keyboards, programming, smoother production, etc... Actually I don't mind the drum programming on a couple tracks, but some of the keyboard stuff is just way too smooothie-pop layering for me.
Having said all this, for what it is... a Best Of album with some new tracks... it is excellent. It truly does have all her best songs from the first 3 albums. In order, I have always ranked her albums (favorite to least) as Ko Sira, Moussoulou, and then Worotan. Ko Sira and Moussoulou both being fantastic almost from beginning to end, and Worotan being okay overall with some bright spots.
So, 5 stars because the stuff from the previous albums is still fantastic, but I take away a couple stars for the production style of the new tracks, but then I give a star back because like I said, now that the first 3 albums are gone, this is the perfect digest of those albums. This is jam-packed with her best songs... and her voice!
If you don't have the other 3 albums, do not hesitate to buy this. You will continue to miss out on some great stuff if you don't.