Jul 16, 2014

RhoDeo 1428 Roots

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The drummer and unofficial music director of the late Fela Kuti's band, Africa 70, from 1968 until 1979, Tony Allen (born Tony Oladipo Allen) helped create the sounds of Afro-beat. With his solo recordings, however, Allen has refused to remain stagnant, incorporating dub and avant-garde hip-hop influences into his modern African dance music.

A self-taught musician, Allen began to play drums at the age of 18 while working as a technician for a Nigerian radio station. Within nine months, he had embarked on a professional career as a drummer. Although they had known each other since the early '60s, when they performed on the Nigerian music circuit with different bands, Allen and Kuti began playing American-style jazz together in 1964. Before long, they shifted to a more African-influenced style of highlife jazz, which they continued to play for five years.

Forming Africa 70 in 1969, Allen and Kuti began reaching out to an international audience. A few months later, while touring North America for the first time, Allen was introduced to the music of James Brown, Max Roach, and Art Blakey. Despite critical acclaim, the group faced numerous obstacles, including financial difficulties, racial discrimination, and political oppression. Arrested during the first of a long series of government-sponsored raids of black townships in 1974, Allen spent three days in jail. The following year, he released his first album as a leader, Progress. After performing his last show with Kuti and Africa 70 at the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1979, Allen continued to play with his group Lagos until emigrating to Europe in 1984. After temporarily living in London, he settled in France the following year and worked as a session drummer for such transplanted African musicians as Ray Lema and Manu DiBango, and released N.E.P.A. (Never Expect Power Always) in 1985.

Allen was largely inactive for the next decade, re-emerging in the late '90s with a string of singles, culminating in the release of Home Cooking in 2002. Reissues of his '70s solo albums started showing up around the same time, as well as Eager Hands and Restless Feet: The Best of Tony Allen, a summation of his post-Fela career. In 2004 a live album came out, and 2006 saw a return to his Afro-beat roots with Lagos No Shaking, which was recorded in the Nigerian city itself. That same year, Allen co-founded the British alternative rock outfit the Good, the Bad & the Queen alongside Paul Simonon (the Clash), Simon Tong (the Verve), and Damon Albarn (Blur) and released a well-received eponymous album under the moniker in 2007, followed in 2009 by an all new collection of Afro-beat material called Secret Agent, as well as Inspiration Information, Vol. 4 with Jimi Tenor.


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James Brown had Fred Wesley. Duke Ellington had Billy Strayhorn. Sun Ra had John Gilmore. All musicians of quality. All men who chose to remain in the shadows of their respective bandleaders. All men to whom the music was more important than fame. Fela Kuti had Tony Allen, the hypnotically pulsing drummer of Africa '70, the greatest Afrobeat band to stalk this earth. Lucky for us, Allen cut these two remarkable records, both of which feature most of Africa '70 as his band. The same pulse is there, the same driving rhythm. This is as invaluable to Fela fiends as JB's records are to James Brown fans. Is it as good as the master's records? Not really. The swagger and sheer force of Fela's personality is missing, as is the palpable sense of menace he brought to the table, forcing you to shake your ass while you choked on his message. But the groove is solid. Fans of the style shouldn't be without it.



Tony Allen - No Accommodation for Lagos-No Discrimination  (flac  391mb)

01 No Accommodation For Lagos 17:18
02 African Message 11:56
03 No Discrimination 8:18
04 Road Safety 8:07
05 Ariya 8:45
06 Love Is A Natural Thing 9:08

Tony Allen - No Accommodation for Lagos-No Discrimination   (ogg 170mb)

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Black Voices is Afro-beat drum groove originator Tony Allen's return to action after leaving Nigeria, settling in Paris in 1985, and dropping off the map as far as making records goes. It's a remix project of tracks from singles more than an LP per se, a largely two-person affair with Allen manning the drums and keyboards and Doctor L supplying the modern dub mixology. While it's hard to imagine a minimalist or trip-hop take on a sound as big-band maximalist as Afro-beat and related rhythm forms, that's pretty much what these two have come up with here. "Asiko" is an effective opener with updated Fela electric piano lines -- Allen's drums are the lead instrument and central to mix with the melodic shards darting in and out around the rhythms. "Get Together" is alternately sunny and weird with nice closing horns, and "Black Voices (We Are What We Play Mix)" is minimalist dub Afro-beat with a bass spine blended to spooky keyboard burbles, stabbing clavinet explosions, and whispered head-trip lyrics. Those misterioso internal musings sorta recall some Lee Perry dub or Tricky trip-hop. The fragmentary "The Same Blood" (is that a sample from Allen's "Discrimination" in there?) ebbs and flows around a single guitar riff for too long and the minimal drums, voice, and occasional percussion of "Asiko (In a Silent Mix)" isn't worth nine and a half minutes. The original mix of "Black Voices" is too low-key to sustain interest, but the fuller "Ariya (Psychejujumix)" does, with Allen's drums complemented by guitar, bass, and vocal chants. Black Voices was obviously designed to connect Allen with the international electronica dancefloor crew, and it works fairly well on that level. But it also sounds like a strong EP -- "Asiko," "Black Voices (We Are What We Play Mix)," "Ariya (Psychejujumix)," and "Get Together" -- padded with filler to make it a 50-minute, full-list-price CD. Since those four songs are now available in some form on Allen's solo career best-of Eager Hands and Restless Feet, Black Voices is a long way from essential.



Tony Allen - Black Voices  (flac  316mb)

01 Asiko 7:56
02 Get Together 5:48
03 Black Voices (We Are What We Play Mix) 7:34
04 The Same Blood 8:12
05 Asiko (In A Silent Mix) 9:29
06 Black Voices 5:48
07 Ariya (PsychejujuMix) 7:00

Tony Allen - Black Voices   (ogg 122mb)

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This album marks the return of Afro-beat legend Tony Allen in a solo effort and an attempt at a new fusion of Afro-beat and London hip-hop. He's looking for a different aesthetic than American hip-hop, and for good reason. The idea is to reverse the habit of sampling his old drum loops by laying out fresh ones in combination with hip-hoppers. The combination works well, with the predictably well-laid-out drum patterns setting the exact pace necessary for any venture and the vocals of various players shining through. Allen's vocals are reminiscent of some of Fela Kuti's more soft-spoken work, quietly coming through the texture of sound to speak something and quickly responded to by a legion of female vocalists. The rapping of Londoner Ty works within the rhythmic framework perfectly. His delivery slides words between the beats properly, as the pieces slide from straightforward hip-hop to straightforward Afro-beat, and all points in between. It's a funky album from someone who is, of course, expected to be funky, but it holds up well to any hype or expectations that one might have ahead of time. Pick it up for a quick look at what Tony Allen's been up to for the last couple of years and a new direction in Afro-beat's ever-expanding horizons.



Tony Allen - Homecooking  (flac  374mb)

01 Every Season 4:06
02 Home Cooking 4:44
03 Don't Fight Your Wars 9:06
04 Kindness 5:18
05 Jakelewah 4:55
06 What's Your Fashion 5:07
07 Crazy Afrobeat 4:52
08 Eparapo 7:11
09 Woman To Man 4:46
10 Calling 4:29

Tony Allen - Homecooking  (ogg 140mb)

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1 comment:

Roland said...

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