[Review] Ginger Baker’s Air Force 2 (1970)

With most of the Air Force gone AWOL, Baker conscripted new members around Graham Bond and Denny Laine and recorded one more album.

Kronomyth 2.0: Horny Toad.

Ginger Baker and Graham Bond released a second Air Force album, drafting some new members along the way but otherwise sticking to the flight plan of the first. Ginger Baker’s Air Force 2 features original members Denny Laine, Rick Grech and Harold McNair on a few tracks, including a cover of The Staple Singers’ “Let Me Ride” and the old Cream song, “Sweet Wine.” Although it was recorded in a studio, Ginger Baker’s Air Force 2 retains the same sweaty charisma as the first and feels like a live-in-the-studio production. Baker and Bond expanded the horn section for this album, adding Bud Beadle and Steve Gregory, which gives the record a jazzier tone.

It’s an interesting hybrid: African percussions, jazz/soul horns, female lead singers, rock structures (most of the songs clock in around four minutes) and even a pop single of sorts in Denny Laine’s version of “I Don’t Want To Go On Without You.” Highlights include the bizarre “We Free Kings,” the unexpectedly wise “Do U No Hu Yor Phrendz R” and two blistering Bond performances, “Let Me Ride” and “12 Gates of the City.” Cream fans will also spot the familiar-looking “Toady,” which includes (surprise!) a drum solo from Baker.

Despite the lineup changes, the two Air Force albums are of a piece; if you enjoy the one, you’ll like the other. Unfortunately, the album wasn’t promoted as well as the first, and the Air Force disbanded soon after. (You’re seeing a pattern here, aren’t you?) Also, the second album is short on material; strange, since the group recorded a lot of additional material, which turned up on international releases of Ginger Baker’s Air Force 2. I think they’ve since reconciled the songs on an expanded compact disc reissue; if not, someone really should, since the Air Force records are some of Baker’s tastiest experiments.

Read more Ginger Baker reviews

Original LP Version

A1. Let Me Ride (Roebuck Staples, arranged by Graham Bond) (4:22)
A2. Sweet Wine (Ginger Baker/Janet Godfrey) (3:34)
A3. Do U No Hu Yor Phrenz R? (Ginger Baker) (5:40)
A4. We Free Kings (Ginger Baker) (4:22)
B1. I Don’t Want To Go On Without You (Bert Berns/Jerry Wexler, arr. by Denny Laine/Ginger Baker) (3:56)
B2. Toady (Ginger Baker) (8:21)
B3. 12 Gates of the City (Graham Bond) (4:05)

The Players

Ginger Baker (drums, tympani, tubular bells & African drums), Neemoi Acquaye (African drums & percussion), Aliki Ashman (vocals), Bud Beadle (baritone, alto & soprano saxes), Graham Bond (alto sax, organ, vocals & piano), Ken Craddock (piano, organ, guitar & vocals), Colin Gibson (bass guitar), Steve Gregory (tenor sax & flute), Diane Stewart (vocals) with Rocki Dzidzornu (percussion on A1/A2/B1), Rick Grech (bass on A1/A2/B1), Catherine James (vocals on A1/A2/B3), Denny Laine (guitar & vocals on A1/A2/B1), Harold McNair (alto sax, flute & alto flute on A1/A2/B1). Produced by Ginger Baker; engineered by Roy Baker except B3 by George Chkiantz.

The Pictures

Cover by Ginger Baker. Inside cover by Liz & Ginger Baker.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in November 1970 in the UK and France (Polydor, 2383 029), the US (Atco, SD33-343) and in 1971 in Japan (Polydor, MP-2149) with gatefold cover and innersleeve.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1980 in Japan (RSO, MWX 4043).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.