Ali Farka Touré was a Malian guitarist who blended the American blues with the music that birthed it: the music of West Africa. His catalog of LPs are masterclasses in guitar playing; imagine if Jimi Hendrix grew up in Mali instead of Seattle, and you wouldn’t be far off. You can practically throw a dart at his discography and hit an oil well of greatness, but 1984's self-titled LP, known as The Red Album, is one of his finest, and we have it right here, the first U.S. release of the album on vinyl. As dexterous as John Lee Hooker, singing plaintive blues songs, Touré delivers a tour de force performance here — check his playing on "Cheri" especially — all played on an acoustic guitar. If you love African music and guitar mastery, you need to own this.
Orchestra Baobab started in 1970 in Senegal as the house band for the Baobab night club and were one of the most prolific African bands of the '70s and '80s before they broke up in 1987. In the early '00s, amid the boom in World Music brought on by releases like Buena Vista Social Club, the group reunited for this album, a raucous dance album that can light any gloomy day and move even the most stoic among us. The Baobab might have been the best party band Africa ever produced, a group that deserves its place in your record collection. Get it here on vinyl for the first time.
If you’ve been following VMP long enough, you know that Buena Vista Social Club is not the first time we’ve looked to international musical forms for our Essentials Record of the Month. Last year, we featured Africa Brasil, the incredible samba rock album from Brazilian superstar Jorge Ben (buy that here). Two summers ago, we introduced you to Silver Bullets, the debut LP from reggae group the Silvertones, a group that lasted for just a blink of an eye before disbanding (buy that one here). We also have featured the salsa classic Celia & Johnny in our Classics subscription, one of the groundbreaking LPs in breaking salsa to the rest of the world.
Which is to say, there’s no excuse for you to not make your way around the world on your turntable. Go here and get globetrotting.