Q - 12/02, p.1104 stars out of 5
- "...Worldly, romantic and packed with haunting melodies, this is his most rounded album for 12 years..."
Uncut - 12/02, p.1384 stars out of 5
- "...He manages to balance tradition with more contemporary arrangements..."
CMJ - 12/02, p.56
"...Classic N'Dour pop, full of cute vocal hooks, nifty arranging twists, multilingual crooning in that golden, instantly recognizable tenor/baritone voice, and a good measure of sentimentality..."
Mojo (Publisher) - 1/03, p.75Ranked #2
in Mojo's "Best World Albums of 2002"
Mojo (Publisher) - 11/02, p.105
"...An album of stunning power, offering something from deep within his soul...The greatest artist in Africa has made the album of his life."
Personnel includes: Youssou N'Dour (vocals); Habib Faye (guitar, keyboards, bass); Jimi Mbahe, Papa Oumar Ngom (guitar); Issa Dioula (Senegalese wooden flute); Ibrahima Cisse (keyboards); Laurent Verneret (bass); Manu Katche (drums); Viviane Chidid N'Dour, Mamy Kanoute, Mbantan Cissoko, Sokhna Cissoko, Ngoundo Cissoko (background vocals); Barou Sall (xalam); Assane Thiam (tama); Les Nubians.
NOTHING'S IN VAIN was nominated for the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album.
Personnel: Youssou N'Dour (vocals); Pascal Obispo (vocals, guitar); Habib Faye (guitar, keyboards); Pierre Jaconelli, Pape Oumar Ngom, Jimi Mbaye (guitar); Baboulaye Sissokho (kora); R‚gis Gizavo (accordion); Ibrahima Cisse, Jean-Philippe Rykiel (keyboards); Alain Berg‚, Youssou Camara, Manu Katch‚ (drums); Christophe Voisin, Matthew Vaughan (programming); Crescendo, Viviane N'Dour, Celia Faussart, Ouzin Ndiaye, Helene Faussart, Sokhna Cissoko (background vocals).
Audio Mixers: Volodia; Ndiaga Ndour; Ben Findlay.
Recording information: B5 Automatic, New York, NY; Studio de la Seine, Paris, France; Studio Mega, Paris, France; Studio Twin, Paris, France; Xippi Studios, Dakar, Egypt.
Translator: Thomas Rome.
Unknown Contributor Role: MBaye N'Diaye.
There's been a back-to-acoustic-roots trend among African artists recently, and even the big names don't seem exempt. Salif Keita's done it, and here Youssou N'Dour's at it -- which proves to be no bad thing. His recent output has been quite schizophrenic, divided between albums aimed at a Western audience and those for his native Senegal, with the more hardcore m'balax sound that made him popular in the first place reserved for the African releases. While the easy melodies of Nothing's in Vain (Coono Du R‚‚r) place it far more within the Afro-pop category than much of his previous work, it's still a real gem, bringing in traditional musicians alongside his band, as on the opening "Tan Bi," which works gorgeously, the harp-like kora intersecting with N'Dour's rhythm section. The keening griot wail which has typified so much of his work is absent here, allowing for more subtlety of infection and tone. While that might be a bit of a necessity as he grows older, it also reinforces the fact that Youssou is one of the world's great singers, capable of wrapping and communicating emotion in a note or phrase -- even if you don't understand a word of Wolof (or French, since several of the pieces, like his version of "Il N'Ya Pas D'Amour Heureux," are in French). And when he does break into English, on "Look This Way" and "Africa, Dream Again," it's not the ridiculous, gushing lyrics that have appeared on some of his more recent discs. Yes, there are too many lush keyboards for it to fully qualify as a true acoustic release, and the low-key tamas juddering across "Yaru" do sometimes make you wish the band would kick into high gear, but overall this is N'Dour's most focused and accomplished disc in a long time. Maybe it's a new path, maybe it's a breathing space while he decides what to do next, maybe he just wanted a change. Whatever the reason, it works. ~ Chris Nickson