Khaled - Liberté

Album cover art for upc 875232008021
Catalog: WRAS239.2
Format: CD

Something quite remarkable has happened to Khaled. After years of becoming slicker and slicker, and moving his rai sound into other global music, he's taken a backward step to the kind of rai rock he was making in the 1980s, and which first made him a global star. It's a bold move, and credit goes to producer Martin Meissonnier for a sound that's raw, rootsy, and contemporary, and to Khaled himself for being willing to try it. On every count it's a winner, a return to real rai, with Khaled never in better voice, and singing his heart out with the kind of passion that's been missing for far too long -- listen to the way he aches on "Papa" or tears into the title cut. There are frequently introductions to the tracks here, little maqams that let Khaled really shine, wordless and exploring, such as with "Ya Mamoun," which develops into a wonderful piece of Gnawa music, not a million miles from rai, but something different (it's also present on "Gnaoui"). The '80s are never far from this album in spirit, but it's anything but a cheesy return, pumping, stripped down, or overlaid with swooping strings -- "Raikoum" and "Zabana" are perfect examples. The real joy is how much Khaled uses his voice, and it serves as a reminder of what a magnificent, emotional instrument it is, having been buried by different musical styles for so long. He's really never sounded better, a much more mature performer than back in the day, but still full-blooded, and, on the evidence here, hungry to prove himself. It might be hard to believe, but with this utter triumph Khaled has reinvented himself. ~ Chris Nickson, Rovi

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