Various: African Guitar Kings (2002)
Sheer Sound's new African Guitar Kings compilation features mostly original tunes by some of the most promising South African guitarists working today. From the opening African singing on the first track, "Common Dialogue," by Jimmy Dludlu, I was transported from my chilly homeland of England to the warmer climes of Africa. The harmonised vocals to Jimmy's guitar work really well on this original slow to mid-tempo piece.
Several other tracks offer a variety of interesting approaches. Musa Manzini's "Renaissance Song" blends bongos, female chorus singers, piano, a light mid-tempo Latin underlying rhythm... and, of course, Musa's unmistakable melodic bass. Then there is Blk Sonshine's "Born In A Taxi," which has the catchiest and most memorable chorus on this album: "Spend my time loving you." The tune was recorded on tour in California, and there is a definite combined African/West Coast American feel to this song.
Jonathon Butler's "I Found Myself In You" is another highlight. It really does remind me of Stevie Wonder recordings from the '70s. This track concentrates on his rich, powerful voice with an angry electric guitar and horn section, well in the background but not losing any of its effectiveness. Great stuff. Gito Baloi's tune "Hinkwafo" gave me a "by the sea" feel, just like George Duke's "Brazilian love affair" track did in the '80s, though this track is slower and more airy than the aforementioned hit.
There are no real down sides to this collection. Because it's a best of album, you can be sure that you are getting virtually nothing but the cream of South African guitar music... performed by masters of their craft in a smooth jazz style done the African way! If you don't know the seasoned artists on this album, then this makes a perfect springboard. It will have you searching the current and back catalogues looking for more. And if you do know them, then let this be a reminder of what a rich continent of jazz talent Africa really is.
Track Listing: Jimmy Dludlu - Common Dialogue, Selaelo Selota - Ma Modiegi, Ernie Smith - Lonely, Jonathon Butler - I found myself in you, Louis Mhlanga - Take me, Sipho Gumede - Stokvel Gumba, Musa Manzini - Renaissance Song, Errol Dyers - Samba Ja, Tony Cox - Kierboom, Moss Mogale Unit - Mr. G. Mphakati, Music Ye Africa - International Rumba, Allen Kwela - Seven Days ago, Alvin Dyers - Wesley Street, Kampi Moto& George Phiri - Pamodzi, Gito Baloi - Hinkwafo, Blk Sonshine - Born in a Taxi.