Agony Shorthand

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Up to this moment the finest collection of 1970s afro-funk I'd ever heard, even more syncopated & rocks off than the more heralded Nigerian and Ethipioan stuff, was 2002's "GHANA SOUNDZ" on the UK's Soundway label. Yet I think they've done themselves one better with this second offering of collected rare 45s and LP tracks from deepest Ghana, circa 1969-1973 or so. This dose travels even further away from the rote JAMES BROWN-isms of the first one and features tracks layering in a rootsy, homegrown African psychedelia. So much of it is suffused with pure joy and unadulterated energy that it's hard not to imagine an entire village going nuts when the funky hard sounds of EBO TAYLOR JNR. & WUTA WAZURI's "Mondo Soul Funky" or the wild opener "Olufeme" from OSCAR SULLEY & THE UHURU DANCE BAND hit the huts after a long days' work. There are definitely numbers on this one that move so far away from any sort of American soul or rock influence that they're totally their own beast, like a great weird one from CHRISTY AZUMA & UPPERS INTERNATIONAL (these cats were total "heads" too!!) called "Naam". It's a CD that invites continued play, over and over, and it gets kids of all ages hopping around the living room. How does ironic detachment and hipster skepticism compete with breezing farfisa organ, an acre of drums going off in every conceivable direction, thumping P-FUNK bass, trumpets and screaming horns everywhere and rhythmic tribal chanting that you can't help but take up in your own special gibberish? I'm still learning the ropes when it comes to this era & scene, but the two GHANA SOUNDZ comps are just stunning through & through. For a deeper, more studied view, here's a good article from Andy Freivogel in DUSTED that might help shine a bit more light & tip the scales for ya.