Benin-born, Brooklyn-abiding Angelique Kidjo's tenth album feels like a reintroduction. The first half of the album smacks strongly of Santana-itis. Six of the seven tracks feature marquee names: singer Alicia Keys and saxophonist Branford Marsalis appear on the title track, while Santana himself, alongside singer Josh Groban, helps cover Sade's "Pearls." Joss Stone helps Kidjo suck the dread right out of the Rolling Stones '"Gimme Shelter" and Peter Gabriel adds little to "Salala," but Mali's Amadou and Mariam deliver the West African blues on "Senamou" while Ziggy Marley builds a bridge between Jamaica and Benin on "Sedjedo."
Credibility issues dispensed with, Kidjo gets down to business with "Papa" and the five tracks that follow. As usual, Kidjo is irrepressibly optimistic, dynamic, and brimming with can-do spirit. Her vocal trademark is a throaty growl that lends a pragmatic sense of responsibility to songs about economic inequality, domestic patience, and the possibility — nay, the necessity — of recapturing joy through music. And much of her music is joyous indeed, with a pair of Beninese percussionists laying down solid rhythms amid a dense thicket of quality instrumentation, including Youssou N'Dour's Habib Faye on bass and the great Larry Campbell on slide guitar. "Sedjedo," "Papa," and "Arouna" are especially cooking tracks. The icing on the cake is "Lonlon," and Kidjo's rendition of Ravel's "Bolero" should especially impress fans of Zap Mama's vocal afrobatics.