“Ravissante Baby” by Francis The Great - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1977Album Chart of the Decade: 1970s

TJR says

Recorded in Paris, home of the Mbarga family in the mid-70s, where Father, Jean, ran his own record label (Cinafric Contact) and was a great impresario to the many African artists in Paris at the time. It was Mother, Josephine, who brough the project together, encouraging their seven-year-old son, Francis, to take to the microphone and “do his thing”, just as he did in the musical family home. It'd be fair to say, the schoolkid from the bohemian neighborhood of Ménilmontant rose to the challenge splendidly, and a fine time was had by all. Recorded at Central Studio in Paris, the French and Cameroonian musicians were arranged by Victor Edimo (who played bass) and included Michel Morose (synths) and Toto Guillaume (guitar) in the line-up.

The excellent side one piece is entitled “Ravissante Baby (Négro Phasing)”, ravissante being French for lovely (never let it be said I don't provide good service). The bubbly wee guy is the star attraction, and I must say he has a tremendous sense of rhythm for one so young. I'm not quite sure what he's sing-speaking about, but the piece is punctured with allsorts of short bursts including “yo”, “brrrrr” and “wooo”. For sure, he's having a great old time, and the joy is completely infectious. All the while he's accompanied by some excellent female backing singers, super-catchy pretty-pattern lead and rhythm guitars, with some spongy synths and a galloping beat, relentlessly energetic and never tiring. Funky soukous!

Flipping over, the groove takes a turn towards the deep-funk “Look Up In The Sky (Négro Nature)”, with Francis rap/singing in both French and English (are there no ends to his prodigious talent?) about the wonders of nature, reminding us to look up, open our eyes and see the beauty all around us: “When I look up I see the birds, In the sky I see birds fly, Look up, look up, look up in the sky”. Such sights remind him of his native land (Cameroon) he tells us charmingly. The piece is punctuated throughout with some piercing brass, completing the winning production. Hypnotic afrobeat!

One further album followed a year later (“Crazy Tube”) but Francis did not pursue a musical career. With original copies of the '77 LP trading for hundreds of dollars, the long out-of-print gem was reissued on Hot Casa Records in 2015, stoking up a great deal of interest in this unique, fresh and highly loveable curiosity, all over the world. For the kid it was, surely, the best photo album ever!

The Jukebox Rebel

A [12:08] 8.5.png Francis the Great - Ravissante Baby (Négro Phasing) (Vicky Edimo, Francis Mbarga) Africana
B [12:50] 6.8.png Francis the Great - Look Up In The Sky (Négro Nature) (Vicky Edimo, Francis Mbarga) Disco / Funk

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