Open & Close / Afrodisiac
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This CD reissue combines two early-'70s albums -- Open & Close and Afrodisiac -- on a single disc. Open & Close has just three songs, all in the ten- to 15-minute range, mixing some of the improvisational verve of jazz into Kuti's Afro-funk stew. There's a bittersweet, faintly melancholy tone to some of the progressions that differentiates this from much African pop of then and later, and the half-dozen percussionists set a good bed on which the horns and electric keyboards swap lines. "Gbagada Gbagada Gbogodo Gbogodo" is highlighted by extensive call-and-response vocals between Kuti and the band. The four (as usual, lengthy) songs occupying Aphrodisiac had been originally recorded in Nigeria as 45 rpm releases, though that album consists of re-recordings of these done in London in the early '70s. (Confusingly, one part of the liner notes gives the years 1972-1973 as the recording dates, while another section says they were cut in 1971.) While it's true that Fela Kuti's records from this period are pretty similar to each other, in their favor they're not boring. These four workouts, all sung in Nigerian, are propulsive mixtures of funk and African music, avoiding the homogeneity of much funk and African records of later vintage, done with nonstop high energy. The interplay between horns, electric keyboards, drums, and Kuti's exuberant vocals gives this a jazz character without sacrificing the earthiness that makes it danceable as well. "Jeun Ko Ku (Chop'n Quench)" became Kuti's first big hit in Nigeria, selling 200,000 copies in its first six months in its initial version.
Cat. number: 549 240-2
"Open & Close" originally issued by Kalakuta Records in 1971. "Afrodisiac" originally issued by Regal Zonophone Records in 1972. BIEM / MCPS