On Black Ivory Soul be prepared to hear a strikingly different side to Angelique Kidjo. Whereas on her previous albums, such as Logozo and Aye, the songs are almost all upbeat funky dance rhythms with keyboards, drums and horns, now she presents some soulful ballads and a pleasing orchestration of strings on some tracks: violins, cello, guitar and, for Okan Bale, Malian Mamadou Diabate plays kora. Angelique goes on a musical pilgrimage and explores links with her homeland, Benin, and the Brazilian province of Bahia (one of the tracks is entitled Bahia). On this album Angelique works with a host of international musicians and her efforts in this regard will be rewarded, composing 2 tracks with Vinicius Cantuaria, 3 with Carlinos Brown and one with Dave Matthews, Iwoya, with whom she also duets. Her cover of Gilberto Gil's Refavela, using African lyrics, is delightful, as is the title track 'Black Ivory Soul'. Angelique also co-wrote several of the tracks with her husband Jean Hebrail. There is great variety on Black Ivory Soul and this will without doubt make it appealing to a wider audience. For example Iemanja has a slow contemplative melancholy, on 'Olofoofo' the great depth and richness of Angelique's voice is in evidence and on 'Ces Petits Riens' she is beautifully accompanied by just strings. Nevertheless the unique sounds of Angelique's voice can still be heard loud and clear: 'Ominira' is most reminiscent of her previous songs that I've heard. 'Afrika' stands out as anthem which will easily be remembered alongside those by Salif Keita and Manu Dibango and significantly it is dedicated to Miriam Makeba. You don't need to listen to this album a few times to become familiar with the it: it's a winner right from the start. For someone who has previously been somewhat non-committal about Angelique, i.e. zero on a swingometer with a scale of -10 to +10, this CD leaves me way up at +10!
Angelique Kidjo is one phenomenal singer and one fabulous person as she reveals herself here. This is a woman who won't sing a song that she's not fully into, and this shines forth from "Babia" on through the full CD. There's blending here, the music of her native Benin merging with South American samba, modern Afro beats, and even some French. All in all, this results in a very powerful but controlled vocal sound. There is a feeling for the spiritual but also for the sheer joy of living in much of what she sings. Discover Angelique Kidjo, and this is one of the best CDs to discover her on. You'll be glad you did.
Purchased this CD after seeing Angelique on the World Cup opening ceremoney. It is a joyous and uplifting album. Although a mainly African theme it also has definate Caribbean feel. Great summer music.