There are much better releases that don't for some reason get the same attention and gushing reviews from the critics, the pair of Mandekalou CD's are similar in style to "Segu Blue"
I have to confess I hadn't heard the Mandekalou albums either, but I'm just listening to the Sterns sound samples as I write, and they're kind of what I expected.
I think the reason Segu Blue has got such a positive response is that it's different. It's a more stripped-down take n'goni music - not so busy, not so showy, not so full of rococo flourishes.
But comparing the two seems pointless as I disagree that they are very similar in style. They share a core instrument but seem to me to have very different aims. The Mandekalou songs have more of a stately chamber orchestra feel, whereas Segu Blu seems more like a subtle take on western dance music, and unlike anything I've heard before.
Perhaps other critics also have the same weakness I have - which is to go for what sounds fresh and new, over something which one has heard many times before, however well it's played and produced.
But having said that, if I'd been sent 'Art and Soul of the Mande Griots,' (which I wasn't) as far as I can tell from listening to six samples, I'd have given it an excellent review too.