Various Artists: World Psychedelic Classics 3: Love's a Real Thing: The Funky, Fuzzy Sounds of West Africa

Various Artists
World Psychedelic Classics 3: Love's a Real Thing: The Funky, Fuzzy Sounds of West Africa
Luaka Bop

The "fuzzy" in the subtitle refers to distorted guitars and bell-bottomed bass, and also to the (sometimes) murky sound quality, and also to the Ping Pong of influences heard on all of these early '70s dance sides. West Africa is where the slaves of the Americas came from, and it's thus the cultural fountainhead of most New World pop. Hearing how musicians from Mali, Senegal, Nigeria, and all over the polyglot region studied and refracted James Brown or Santana or Cuban jazz or "Hang on Sloopy" is one of the great pleasures of modern music. In other words, the Bo Diddley beat heard on Sorry Bamba's "Porry," a slab of desert salsa from Mali, might sound so good because it's returning to its old stomping grounds.

While not all of these rare-till-now records are classics, everything is seriously funky with post-colonial optimism and disappointment. A few tunes are in English, and they don't miss the chance to sing across the waters. "America, do you ever think this world is yours?" asks William Onyeabor on the slinky "Better Change Your Mind." He follows up the question with a sly "eh?" that says, Of course you do, but billions of people, including the members of this smokin' little band of mine, know you're wrong.

 
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