Fela Ransome Kuti and His Koola Lobitos: Highlife-Jazz and Afro Soul (1963-1969) (P-Vine Records, 2005/reissued by Knitting Factory Records, 2016)April 7, 2016 at 7:42 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment
Fela Kuti needs no introduction, but the music on this collection introduced him to the music world back in the ’60s, when he lead a group called Koola Lobitos. This is far different than the Afrobeat sound he would invent during the ’70s. While every bit as spirited and lively as the music he would become known for, this is much more light-hearted highlife and jazz (sometimes bordering on calypso), lacking the political fury that would turn him into a cultural icon. This isn’t to discredit the music contained here, as it is highly enjoyable, fun music. The first disc consists of the group’s singles, and they start out highlife for the first 6 tracks, switch to modern jazz for a few songs (with “Amaechi’s Blues” sounding more like American jazz than anything else he’s done), then eventually moving closer to soul with the last 2 tracks. The second disc is the group’s proper studio album, and it focuses on the highlife sound. Disc 3 starts out with a live 10″ the group released in 1966, then concludes with more tracks from singles. The live tracks, as expected, are pure fire. Just super loud and explosive and great. It goes without saying that the fidelity on all these recordings is not state-of-the-art. Some of it’s really distorted and muddy, because a lot of the master tapes simply don’t exist, so they had to be dubbed from ancient, dirty vinyl records. The music absolutely needs to be heard, so I’m assuming most people won’t complain about the fidelity. This collection has been released a few times before, first by Japanese label P-Vine a decade ago, then as 2CD set Lagos Baby by Vampisoul in 2008; this edition from Knitting Factory Records is the comp’s first American issue.