By the mid-'90s, Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré was expanding his signature acoustic African blues by changing his instrumental palette and collaborating with Western musicians like Ry Cooder (as on 1994's Talkin' Timbuktu). While Touré gained prominence during this period, many die-hard fans tout the artist's earliest work as his strongest. The double-disc set Red & Green brings together two albums originally released by the French label Sonodisc between the mid- and late '80s. The original vinyl versions were long out of print and difficult to find, until their issue here on World Circuit/Nonesuch. Both albums are entirely acoustic (Touré didn't introduce an electric guitar until 1991's The Source), with minimal accompaniment on calabash and ngoni (a traditional four-string guitar), which perfectly complements Touré's percussive guitar style and plaintive, keening vocals.
Rich oriental lord Cassim's cheeky servant Ali Baba was sent to buy a meaty girl-slave, but brings dancer Morgiane, whom he is enamored with. When he's part of a caravan robbed by Abdel's 40 thieves, Ali hides in a camel hive and thus learns the secret of Sesame cave. With stolen loot he buys Morgiane and his own residence for him and beggar friends. Cassim not only gets him drunk to learn his secret gold source but also plans to rob him at the grand wedding with Morgiane. But Abdel observed them too and invites his 40 robbers.