[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.

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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).

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