Fela Ransome Kuti And The Afrika 70 With Ginger Baker – Live! (1971)

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Produced by Jeff Jarratt
Label – Regal/Zonophone

Having initially studied medicine and then music at Trinity College of Music in the late 1950s and early 60s, Fela Kuti returned to the U.K. in 1971 with an assembled band called The Afrika 70, determined to spread his unique afrobeat style. Cream drummer Ginger Baker had been a long time fan of African music and moved to Nigeria the previous year, eventually building and recording from a sixteen track studio in Lagos. Baker returned to London and along with Kuti booked a studio at Abbey Road, and with a gathered crowd of around 150 fans recorded this long player in one two hour stint. The record captures the pure essence of Kuti’s jazz, funk and traditional African chants and rhythms, all fused to provide a highly original creation that’s driven heavily by Baker and Tony Allen’s beats.

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The four song set is nothing if not energetic, but given that all the songs follow the same musical pattern run far too long and often feel like an opportunity to expand their self absorbed insistence in proving the obvious instrumental skills on show. In an era where musical popularity was very often judged by the virtuosity of the performer, this recording does have validity. Undoubtedly, Kuti and his entourage are fine musicians, but the continuous battle to prove themselves becomes tiresome over the course of this collection. In mitigation, many bands would fill their live repertoire with a lengthy guitar/drum/keyboard solo and indeed some built a career around their technical expertise. 40 years later, this bears far less significance, and for that reason “Live!” hasn’t aged well. Initially it’s an interesting concept, but lack of intrinsic song variety makes for a weary collection of overbearing percussion, mundane horns, and Fela’s repetitious pidgin interjections.

“Live!” may well be a revelation to anyone looking for an introduction to Afrobeat, but after about fifteen minutes of strung out beats and vapid horn parps the record becomes a tough proposition for the most patient of listeners.

5/10

Track Listing
1.”Let’s Start” – 8:06
2.”Black Man’s Cry” – 12:12
3.”Ye Ye De Smell” – 13:55
4.”Egbe Mi O (Carry Me I Want To Die)” – 12:37

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