Fela Ransome-Kuti and Africa 70: Fela With Ginger Baker Live! (1971)
Enter Ginger Baker. Baker tooled into Nigeria in 1969, having come directly from Europe in a Land Rover. His stated purpose was to absorb and internalize the rhythms of Africa, and he was remarkably successful in accomplishing this task. Fela Kuti already had an astonishingly brilliant drummer in the form of Tony Allen, who was able to simultaneously perform a world of rhythm. But Ginger Baker brought something new to the mix.
Live! was recorded in 1971 with Fela's group at the time, the Africa 70. Due to its demanding performance schedule, the band is remarkably tight. Interlocking rhythms drive keyboard and guitar vamps, propelling instrumental soloists on trumpet and saxophone. There's a nice jazzy feel here, manifested both in an elastic sense of time and in an ensemble approach to performance. Improvised passages lie interspersed between statements of the theme, with Fela improvising on voice or delivering some rather frank lyrics in English and Yoruba. For example, the message of the opener: Let's get it on! (This piece features Ginger Baker sitting in for Tony Allen on drums, and he does quite well. Baker trades his usual heavy-handed approach for a lighter touch, dancing in and around the beat.)
The last track, recorded live in 1978, is a wonderful addition to the reissue of this record. It's a 16-minute duet between Tony Allen and Ginger Baker. These two men perform as equals, making for an interesting situation. Allen, as usual, is impossible to pin down. Baker manages to integrate and interweave his rhythms, making the combination much greater than the sum of its parts.
Live! is as tight, funky, and sensual as any record Fela Kuti ever made. Having Ginger Baker in the mix makes it a bit unusual, but this is an excellent recording suitable for Fela initiates and devotees alike.
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Track Listing: Let's Start; Black Man's Cry; Ye Ye De Smell; Egbe Mi O (Carry Me I Want To Die); Ginger Baker and Tony Allen drum solo (live at the Berlin Jazz Festival 1978).
Personnel: Fela Ransome-Kuti: voice; Tunde Williams: 1st trumpet (solo); Eddie Faychum: 2nd trumpet; Igo Chiko: tenor sax (solos); Lekan Animashaun: baritone sax; Peter Animashaun: rhythm guitar; Maurice Ekpo: bass guitar; Tony Allen: drums; Ginger Baker: drums; Henry Koffi: 1st conga; Friday Jumbo: 2nd conga; Akwesi Korranting: 3rd conga; Tony Abayomi: sticks; Isaac Olaleye: shekere.
Record Label: FAK/MCA