Thursday, December 3, 2009

Fela KUTI - Fela with Ginger Baker Live! 1971

Fela KUTI - Fela with Ginger Baker Live! 1971


It's hard to go wrong with Fela Kuti's work from the 1970s, and LIVE!, which features the Afrobeat innovator backed by his powerhouse band Africa '70 and ex-Cream drummer Ginger Baker, is no exception. Like all of Fela's recordings from the era, LIVE! consists of just a few tracks, each of which approximates or exceeds the ten minute mark.

Yet the arrangements are so dynamic on these tracks, the criss-crossing polyrhythms so absorbing, and Fela's incantatory vocals so entrancing that the long running times never seem a factor. Every cut crackles from beginning to end with its mixture of funk, jazz, and traditional Nigerian music, underscoring once again Fela's revolutionary, indelible contribution to world music. Fans of Ginger Baker will want to take note that the drummer is not showcased except on a bonus track, which pairs the drummer with Fela percussionist Tony Allen for a smokin' sixteen-plus minute drum solo.

Live! was recorded in 1971 with Fela's group at the time, the Africa 70. Due to its demanding performance schedule, the band is remarkably tight. Interlocking rhythms drive keyboard and guitar vamps, propelling instrumental soloists on trumpet and saxophone. There's a nice jazzy feel here, manifested both in an elastic sense of time and in an ensemble approach to performance. Improvised passages lie interspersed between statements of the theme, with Fela improvising on voice or delivering some rather frank lyrics in English and Yoruba. For example, the message of the opener: Let's get it on! (This piece features Ginger Baker sitting in for Tony Allen on drums, and he does quite well. Baker trades his usual heavy-handed approach for a lighter touch, dancing in and around the beat.)
Fela Kuti- (Vocals);
Ginger Baker- (Vocals, Drums);
Peter Animashaun- (Guitar);
Igo Chiko- (Tenor Sax);
Lekan Animashaun- (Baritone Sax);
Tunde Williams, Eddie Faychum- (Trumpet);
Maurice Epko- (Bass);
Tony Allen- (Drums);
Henry Koffi, Friday Jumbo, Akwesi Korranting- (Congas);
Tony Abayomi, Isaac Olaleye- (Percussion).
01. Let's Start 7:47
02. Black Man's Cry 11:38
03. Ye Ye De Smell 13:16
04. Egbe Mi O (Carry Me I Want to Die) 12:40
05. Ginger Baker and Tony Allen Drum Solo 16:21

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