Wednesday, February 29, 2012

L'Afrique Danse No. 2 (1966)

The L'Afrique Danse series is without doubt the most important, early effort to catalog and preserve the extraordinary musical ferment occurring in the two Congos during the 1960s. This second in the series is dominated by early hits by Rochereau with African Fiesta, and the Rochereau tracks are truly wonderful. Yet there is also one killer song from Kalle, crooning with a Latin swing, and two sweet songs from Jean (Johnny) Bokelo with his band Conga Succès. The album ends with two songs from Orchestre Los Angel, an obscure band in the O.K. Jazz mold led by Albert Missia, aka Robin.

This is a wonderful record with sublime music, and it has appeared elsewhere on the 'net. Yet this is a relatively pristine copy, suffering from a couple of original recording issues (especially on the Los Angels cuts), but thankfully free from defects caused by playing it over and over. Which, by the way, is your fate once you have this in your library. I have excellent copies of Nos. 3 & 4 as well, and will queue them up.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Choc Stars - Awa et Ben (1986)

Here is the Siamese twin to my last post, delayed by two feet of snow and then 5,000 miles of flight. I believe this record comes from the same recording session as the one below, and have always felt that the strongest songs of the session were chosen for the first Shock. The Choc Stars are no less impressive on this record: the singing is impeccable, the guitars are splendid (who are they?), and the rhythms rockin'.

So have a listen, and see what you think. Are these songs weaker, or did I just tire of the formula after eight long songs on two records?
Enjoy sometime soon!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Choc Stars - Choc=Shock=Choc (1986)

The Choc Stars were one of the descendent bands of the extensive Zaiko Langa Langa family, formed in 1983 by Bozi Boziana and Ben Nyamo. During the mid-'80s wonderful singer Matumona Defao Lulendo joined, and a number of wonderful albums resulted. The pioneer "world music" label GlobeStyle, which had an exquisite ability to find and publish essential music from Africa and beyond, licensed two 1986 Afro Rythmes records, for nearly simultaneous UK and U$ releases. This spectacular record is one, and the other is queued for imminent posting.

One of my colleagues at The Beat, the Congolese music expert Martin Sinnock, devoted one of his first column's to the Choc Stars, and I recommend reading it here. Though none of the musicians are credited on the album sleeve, Martin identifies Koffi Olomide as a guest on this session. The harmonic singing throughout this record is fabulous, especially notable on "Lieven" and "Santa." The guitarists are great. Anyone who has further information on musicians, please share in comments. Others, just immerse yourself and...

Enjoy sometime soon!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Oliver Mutukudzi - Live at Sakubva Concert (1989)

One of the legendary Zimbabwean musicians who continues to perform into his fourth career decade, Oliver Mutukudzi recorded this milestone in Sakubva Stadium in Mutare, on 29 April 1989. Not only was this his first live recording, it also is claimed to be the first live pop recording done in Zimbabwe.

Despite some significant vinyl defects, I value this album especially for Tuku's exuberance. Recorded when great optimism remained in the country, ten years after the overthrow of Rhodesia's post-colonial, racist government, a listener can tell the audience and musicians connected for an unforgettable night. The breadth of Mutukudzi's unique style is evident in these twelve songs, drawing from Shona and Ndebele traditional, chimurenga, and South African pop influences.

Tuku's expressive baritone is backed by his band Black Spirits, composed at the time by: Robert Mutukudzi (Keyboard), Moses Mullah (Lead guitar), Job Mteswa (Rhythm guitar), James Austin (Drums), Sam Mtowa (Drums/vocals), Joseph Alphas (Bass guitar), Basil Phiri (Sax) and Picky Kasamba (Vocals). The live recording itself is good, and hopefully someday it will be rescued from master tapes and made available on a better medium than this inferior vinyl. The album has a generous two records that I processed as one, but divided into two for smaller downloads.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Mighty Invaders - Invasion! (1983)

Let's slip into the weekend with an easy skankin' dose of classic reggae from The Mighty Invaders. This roots band was based in Baltimore, Maryland, but recorded at two of Jamaica's legendary studios: Tuff Gong and Channel One.

It's been many years since I listened to this record, and it amazed me how familiar it is. The first song, "Hatred," sets a deep hook. Notable with this band is the key role of women singers, a relatively rare situation in roots reggae, and their voices provide a lightness that balances the deep bass and serious lyrics. This is not the heaviest reggae in my stable, by any means, but it is a fun listen to a group with talent. Dean Fraser sits in on sax. Lively up yourself!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Review: Batsumi - Batsumi (2011)

South African jazz is quite well known throughout the world. Indeed, I have listened to an immense quantity of it over the past three decades. I was introduced to South African jazz through the collection of a friend I lived with in Britain, a South African exile who revered the music of Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim). It was Dollar Brand and the other supremely talented South African expatriates, Myriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela, who effectively defined South African jazz for the international audience.

Of course jazz that germinated in the townships continued to grow and evolve after its luminaries emigrated, because most musicians could not flee the apartheid reality. I've explored as much of that music as I could, and have even posted some on this site. ElectricJive has provided a wonderful resource through which I have learned a great deal more during the past couple of years.

Nothing, however, prepared me for the 1974 Sowetan blast from Batsumi. Listen to this first awesome track as you read on.


Beginning with a minute of gentle, soulful acoustic bass and guitar, the rhythm suddenly accelerates. The strings are joined by drums and piano to create a dynamic, throbbing foundation for sax and, wait for it. . . flute improvisations. Two-thirds through this monster cut, all but the drums drop out, trap and traditional drums snaking around each other to create a different rhythm that drives the band for the final three minutes. This last movement and its vocals remind me strongly of Philip Tabane and Malombo.

The second track, "Emampondweni," is an urgent song lifted by Thomas Thabang Masemola's soaring flute, which fills all the empty spaces with reverb. Pianist Lancelot Sello Mothopeng begins "Itumeleng" in a classical vein with a couple of jazz chords, but then the other Batsumi musicians drop in one by one to stretch out for fifteen minutes of grooving introspection: Really, really nice. The whole album has traces of U$ soul music, which blend seamlessly with the traditional drums.

This rerelease was produced by Matt Temple over at Matsuli Music, the second loving restoration of a crucial recording made available by that tiny label. On Matt's site you can read a great deal more about Batsumi, the band, and the social context under apartheid in which this recording was made. I do not think I need to provide more details here. 
I'm a little behind the curve with this review, as it is, for the premier LP pressing of it is already virtually sold out! Nevertheless I think this classic reissue is important to consider, since it still is available as a lossless download here. Besides, writing the review gave me the great pleasure of listening, again and again, to this wonderful music.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Thione Seck & Le Raam Daan - Yow (1990)

Although one of Senegal's most loved singers, Thione Seck has not been as internationally famous as compatriots Youssou N'dour or Baaba Maal, despite having several excellent albums released around the world. Seck first achieved widespread notice as vocalist for Orchestra Baobab, but by the '80s had set out on a solo career with his band Le Raam Daam. Unparalleled producer Ibrahima Sylla caught Seck for this 1983 set, rereleased on the Melodie label in 1990.

Thione Seck croons over first rate mbalax with jazzy guitars and torrid percussion, and this album, one of his earliest solo efforts, is excellent. The first five tracks are vibrant mbalax, while the last is a ballad that picks up the pace slightly towards the end.