No one could really criticize you if you didn't expect this newly recorded album to be as good as the rereleases of Poly-Rythmo's 1960's and 1970's material. I too was skeptical mainly because the bar was set so high by the collections on Soundway and Analog Africa. There were so many reasons for this album to fall short. After all, the songs that had made Poly-Rythmo popular in the western world were not only recorded over 30 years ago but they were also not the songs that made them popular in Benin and other West African countries. Additionally the personnel of the band had changed greatly from this time and they were bringing back a singer with whom they had parted ways over 30 years ago. It's seems unlikely that they were playing these songs five years ago, except maybe for the latin-influenced numbers.
For me, the moment of truth in this album comes during the first song, "Ne Te Fache Pas," when the guitarist launches into Papillon's guitar solo. While the cry of "Paillon" is sorely missed, the solo is expertly handled with flair. And if it bothers you that this version is almost half the time as the one on Kings of Benin Urban Groove 1972-80, just remember that on that version they just play the song twice. The new version of "Gbeti Madjro" is spiced up nicely with vocals by Angelique Kidjo. And the oft-mentioned collaboration with Franz Ferdinand, "Lion is Burning," which starts with a relatively lame disco riff is, after about a minute, nicely funked up by Poly-Rythmo. I miss having longer songs. Ironically though, the one I wish was longer is "Lion is Burning", which ends ways too soon after a great percussion break. They should have played it twice.
What I like best about this album is the clarity of the production. It is the first time I can clearly hear the percussion backing of all the songs and it is a revelation. It is like opening an old watch and seeing the gears all working for the first time. While this wouldn't be my top Poly-Rythmo recommendation, I wouldn't neglect it either.