Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 2/23/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album is #706:

Fela Kuti – Coffin For Head Of State

To celebrate the unprecedented and paradigm-shifting revolutions going on in North Africa – who would have thought, huh? – we give you another African freedom fighter. Fela’s albums from the 1970s onward typically feature a couple of sidelong vamps: this has the sprawling title track – the most murderous song he ever wrote – and the equally hypnotic, intense Unknown Soldier. By the time he released this in 1980, he’d been imprisoned, tortured and beaten within an inch of his life and seen his nightclub burned to the ground. And still he didn’t give up. And as revolutionary a personality as he was, he was every bit as revolutionary as a musician: he basically invented Afrobeat. For anyone who thinks that Vampire Weekend has anything to do with Africa, we recommend a thorough immersion in this deliriously defiant, funky stuff. Here’s a random torrent; for those who prefer something better than a lousy overcompressed mp3 off the web, or want to investigate his extensive and pretty extraordinary back catalog, Knitting Factory Records are reissuing the entire thing from the late 60s onward in bits and spurts.

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February 23, 2011 Posted by | funk music, lists, Music, music, concert, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Aphrodesia – Precious Commodity

The cd cover of Bay Area Afropop dance band Aphrodesia’s new album (available both digitally and on yummy vinyl) depicts an old 1970s vintage boombox in a briefcase, as if it’s been smuggled in from somewhere. Likewise, the music on the new cd has a defiant feel – it’s insanely good to dance to. Aphrodesia earned their cred in the African music community the hard way, touring the continent and eventually being invited by Femi Kuti to play his famous Shrine club in Lagos. Fela and Antibalas are Aphrodesia’s obvious antecedents, but they add their own fiery, relevant lyricism over a delirious, horn-driven dance groove and adrenalizing solos from the whole band. The songs stretch out, moving between styles comfortably but intensely, especially when the horn section is going full blast.

The instrumental that bookends the album has frontwoman Lara Maykovich playing a mbira (thumb piano) through a bunch of loud amps for something of an over-the-top vibraphone effect, a vividly original evocation of the joy of the morning after Election Day, 2008. The cd’s second cut, Special Girl serves as the title track, a sarcastic rail that mocks the fearfulness of mass consumption (and the global sex trade): “Too much to buy in the marketplace,” Maykovich comments sarcastically as the horns soar ecstatically over the hypnotic, busy shuffle of the guitar and percussion. Track three, Make Up Your Mind takes a jazzy Sade-style ballad and transforms it into catchy funk with a characteristically pointed Maykovich lyric and a long, searing backwards-masked guitar solo

Think/Suffer is a big swaying anthem opening with a fiery horn riff, eventually working its way down into a slinky reggae groove with more explosive noise guitar. Friday Night works a catchy, hypnotic, jangly riff: Vampire Weekend only wish they were this tuneful or fun. “Friday night you ask me for a penny, Saturday night I’ll give you a dollar…when I come you say you’re sick; when I go, you say you’re well,” Maykovich relates sardonically. Spiced with playful sax, Say What is a more traditional, hypnotic Afrobeat groove building to a blazing crescendo of horns.

By the Iron kicks off with an insistent reggae beat and an apprehensive horn chart, morphing into a horn-driven Yoruba chant and then back to the reggae with the horns working up a mighty storm. The rest of the cd includes a couple of more straight-up funk numbers, the second even catchier than the first, and the slinky, wah-wah driven, self-explanatory Caminando. Wow! Don’t put this on if you’re planning on falling asleep.  If this album is any indication they ought to be amazing live; watch this space for upcoming NYC dates.

July 28, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment