[Review] Fela Ransome-Kuti & The Afrika ’70: Afrodisiac (1973)

Recorded in Abbey Road Studios in London in 1971, this features re-recordings of some of Fela’s recent homeland hits.

Kronomyth 8.0: Here comes the sun king, better late than never.

In 1971, Fela Kuti had a pair of local hit singles with “Chop And Quench” and “Don’t Gag Me,” the latter his most overtly political song to date. That same year, Kuti and his Afrika ’70 band travelled to London’s Abbey Road Studio to record new material, and used the occasion to re-record some of his recent hits. The following year (or two), the new recordings of “Chop And Quench” and “Don’t Gag Me” were released with “Eko Ile” and “Alu Jon Jonki Jon” (from the same Abbey Road sessions) as Afrodisiac.

On first listen, it sounds as though Fela has taken a step back from the stunning double-guitar attack of Roforofo Fight but, like I said, this music was actually recorded with the earlier lineup—Peter Animashaun on rhythm guitar, Maurice Ekpo on bass, Igo Chico on tenor sax, etc. Thus, Afrodisiac sounds a lot like the music recorded during the same period: Fela’s London Scene and Live! Churning grooves and exotic, multi-layered rhythms underpin Fela’s musical/verbal commentary on gluttony (“Chop And Quench”), selfishness (“Alu Jon Jonki Jon”), home (“Eko Ile”) and free speech (“Don’t Gag Me”). As usual, Afrika’ 70 shines when Fela steps out of the spotlight, although for most of the album his voice and electric piano are front and center.

If you were to create a best-of compilation of the early Afrika ’70 lineup, you’d probably want to include these versions of “Don’t Gag Me” and “Chop And Quench.” All of the early Fela/Afrika ’70 albums contain great playing, powerful grooves and passionate performances from Fela, so I wouldn’t recommend one album over another. In terms of musical development, you’ll hear the emergence of the electric guitar on “Eko Ile” as well as the group’s unique twist of presenting an opening groove and then quickly inverting it into something unexpected and wonderful. Yeah, add “Eko Ile” to that best-of stew too.

The truth is that most Fela albums more or less contain the same ideas. They’re parts of a larger whole, like paragraphs from different chapters in a long dissertation on afrobeat. What Fela had learned in the 60s is expertly applied in his music from the 70s; in a sense, the one period represents creation, the other application. Never one to sit still, Fela was already applying new ideas to afrobeat in 1972 when Afrodisiac was released, but the smell of vintage Fela will be enough to lure listeners out of time’s narrow corridors for a moment.

Read more Fela Ransome-Kuti reviews

Original LP Version

A1. Alu Jon Jonki Jon
A2. Jean Ko Ku (Chop And Quench)
B1. Eko Ile
B2. Je’Nwi Temi (Don’t Gag Me)

All titles composed by Fela-Ransome Kuti.

The Players

Fela Ransome-Kuti (tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, electric piano, vocals), Tony Abayomi (sticks), Tony Allen (drums), Lekan Animashaun (baritone saxphone), Peter Animashaun (rhythm guitar), Igo Chico (tenor saxophone), Maurice Ekpo (bass guitar), Eddie Faychum (2nd trumpet), Friday Jumbo (2nd conga), Henry Koffi (1st conga), Akwesi Korranting (3rd conga), Isaac Olaleye (shekere), Tunde Williams (1st trumpet). Produced by Jeff Jarratt; engineered by Tony Clark and John Kurlander.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in 1973 in Nigeria (EMI Nigeria, 062) and the UK (Regal Zonophone, SLRZ 1034).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1975 in France (Pathe Marconi, 1E 062 81290) and Germany (Regal Zonophone, 2C 062-81290) with cover variation.
  2. Re-issued on elpee in 2014 in the US (Knitting Factory).

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