As his recording career stretched over about 35 years and more than 150 albums, it would be impossible for any Franco compilation, even a two-CD one, to give but a taste of his overall work. If you're willing to accept the limitations inherent in a two-CD set for such a prolific artist, however, Francophonic does a pretty good job of both assembling highlights from his discs and providing some sort of outline to his musical evolution. It samples from numerous eras over the course of its 28 tracks, spanning the years 1953-1980 and lasting a good two and a half hours. In some ways it reflects the changes in African popular music as a whole during this period. It almost sounds a little like a light fusion of Latin and jazz influences in its early rhumba-like tunes, growing toward a more steadily rhythmic and ebullient Zairian sound by the end of the '60s, and stretching out into far longer groove-oriented pieces on the '70s recordings that take up most of disc two. It's important to remember, however, that guitarist-songwriter Franco was not simply following trends, but was among the most prominent initiators of these developments in African music. The cluster of recordings from the early '70s on this set seem to be the ones in which he both cements his musical vision and lays down some of his best tracks, particularly in the more haunting tunes that include some call and response vocals, and the tougher outings that contain some of his most forceful guitar work. The 48-page booklet presents an historical overview of his life and music (in both English and French), though some might find it frustrating that more thorough discographical information beyond the original years of release isn't included. It can be a little confusing for Franco newcomers in particular to get a handle on the personnel he used as well, though to be fair to the compilers, discographical data is hardly an easy thing to acquire for African recordings of this vintage, and the booklet does list years of service for many of the singers and musicians with whom Franco played in his bands.