Fela Ransome-Kuti And The Africa ’70 With Ginger Baker - 1971 – Live!
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An essential part of Fela’s catalog.
Kuti’s intelligence as an arranger is otherworldy. He does things in such a way I’d scoff at probably if you told me, but they’re nothing less than pure brillance. It is absolutely clear from all of these arrangements that Kuti is at a level beyond most musicians to begin with. Everything just feels like it couldn’t have happened in any other way. This is the ultimate version of these ideas. Its so embedded into their nature to be purely excellent.
Kuti himself delivers a performance on this album like nothing I’ve ever seen or heard. His ability to call into new sections and just have people respond with eager enthusiasm at EVERY moment is his defining trait as a bandleader. You can feel the transfer of his energy into his band, and they love it, and he loves it. His vocal performance is nothing less than immaculate either. Every single time he opens his mouth it sounds like God instructed him on exactly how to express himself to the world. Every yell in Black Man’s Cry is more gorgeous and full of emotion than the last. Not to mention that only, he is a phenomenal saxophone player as well. His solos are brilliant in that it’s still, like the arrangement, exactly as it should be. He’s not playing that; it just is.
Kuti doesn’t back off for a SECOND from his heritage. This album is infusing with love and care for Africa, and with only due respect to those cultures. I don’t want to speak too much on them, since I don’t know too many facts, but Kuti brings that spirit to life. I feel I know more about African music, and the energy of their people than ever before. God bless you Fela, making me more well-rounded every time I listen.
Ginger is a phenomenal drummer, this record really makes me want to explore Cream more as an outfit, I’ll be honest in saying I’m just not that familiar with them; but I’d like to be. I love his solos, I love the texture he brings.
Barring all the musical perfection, whoever recorded and produced this album was brilliant. Somehow, they made every part of the arrangement present and intimate without ever losing that huge sound from the room reverb. My absolute favorite part has to be how they handled Kuti’s voice though. They allowed him full dynamic range and space around the room. It’s so thoughtful, and so wonderful.
God, I love this record. So, so much.
A1 Let’s Start 7:48
A2 Black Man’s Cry 11:36
B1 Ye Ye De Smell 13:17
B2 Egbe Mi O (Carry Me I Want to Die) 12:38
Quite a historic album – was this the first time a major Western music star joined forces with a non-Western music star on the latter’s home turf? It might well have been. Back in the day Ginger Baker was very much a household name, having recently been part of a Top-5-in-popularity group (Cream). This album was made well before McCartney ventured to Nigeria to record Band on the Run, and 15 years before Paul Simon made the seminal Graceland with South African musicians. I believe it also predates musical visits to Africa by folks like James Brown, Bob Marley and Miles Davis.
It’s easy to criticize having Baker so prominently featured on the sleeve as a “marketing ploy”. But think of what that accomplished: it brought Fela’s music to a large new Western audience who wouldn’t have thought to try it otherwise. Which was an early step in a change to global culture that’s still happening to this day. Sometimes a “marketing ploy” can be a very good thing.
The music on this album is quite timeless and excellent, and is very well recorded. Yes a lot of it is instrumental and solo-y, but it always maintains an infectious groove that makes for an enjoyable listen. There’s lots of great melodies and smart arrangements. Baker never tries to show off; he integrates well with the band and is totally professional throughout. You can choose to listen actively to this CD or just treat it as background music – either way it’s highly likeable.