Various artists: Congo Funk! review – get ready to rumba

<span>Tabu Ley, far right, and African Fiesta National, 1970.</span><span>Photograph: Analog Africa</span>
Tabu Ley, far right, and African Fiesta National, 1970.Photograph: Analog Africa

This latest compilation from the redoubtable Analog Africa label is subtitled “Sound Madness from the Shores of the Mighty Congo River”, an alluring but slightly misleading description. In truth there is little madness in evidence among its 14 tracks, most of which are precisely played and delightfully sung examples of Congolese rumba from 1969-82, a genre distinguished by its melodicism, intricate Latin rhythms and sparkling guitar work.

However, rumba received an electrifying jolt when James Brown visited Kinshasa as part of the circus surrounding the 1974 heavyweight title fight between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali, the “rumble in the jungle”. Brown’s influence – stark beats, crazed exhortations – is clear on cuts such as Lolo Soulfire by singer Lola, Trio Bydoli’s Lalia, or the eight minutes of rolling funk on opener Sungu Lubuka. Homegrown traditions were not easily displaced: Tabu Ley Rochereau, a major star, delivers a lilting, seductive piece, Adeito, and while GO Malebo’s Fiancée Laya has a soul music groove, the delicacy of its vocals lies elsewhere.

The album is culled from some 2,000 tracks amassed by label boss Samy Ben Redjeb on a crate-digging expedition to Kinshasa and Brazzaville; a beautifully packaged time capsule.