Sabu - Palo Congo (1957), 4/10

Palo Congo may be an impressive exhibition of Sabu’s percussive talent, but the songwriting and vocal performances leave a bit to be desired. The narrative, compositions and therefore the album experience suffer from a lack of variety and intentional direction. Especially a track like “Billumba-Palo Congo” feels like a bizarre choice and change in sound after the much more appealing opener “El Cumbanchero”. The record is all over the place in arrangement, song styles and quality, yet blends together rather quickly to become rather a mess of an album that perplexes me as a listener. If it were perhaps more of a pure percussive experiment featuring more tracks like the droning yet pleasant “Asabache” and its equally repetitive but clearly passionate follow up “Simba” it may be more successful and interesting. It is most certainly one of those albums that leaves you with a feeling of uneasy confusion at what to take away from the experience apart from some very scattered moments of pleasant percussive playing. “Tribilin Cantore” as a closer again falls short not only from a strange listening arc, but also strangely empty vocals and all of this in spite of a decently entertaining contribution from Rodríguez on guitar. A lack of intention and direction along with subpar writing and vocal performances hinder what could otherwise be a better showcase of Sabu’s undeniable talent as a percussionist.