Monday, January 16, 2017

Death - 2014 - Death III

Death III

01. Introduction By David 2:03
02. North Street 3:42
03. Open Road 3:20
04. We Are Only People 8:41
05. Restlessness 3:54
06. Free 2:04
07. Yes He's Coming 4:36
08. First Snowball In Detroit 4:51
09. We're Gonna Make It 4:04

Bass, Vocals – Bobby Hackney
Drums – Dannis Hackney
Guitar – David Hackney

The selling of the Detroit trio Death as a proto-punk band helped the long-lost group catch the attention of modern listeners, but with their third archival release, it’s become clear that they had much more than spit and snarl up their sleeves.

When Death’s meager, forgotten discography from the 70s began to be unearthed in 2009, it made sense to peg the group as proto-punk. In fact, the first Death collection, …For the Whole World to See, went out of its way to reinforce this image. Here were a trio of African-American brothers from Detroit who—before the Ramones had released a record—laid down a lean, ferocious form of rock'n'roll. But even that initial anthology of songs, as carefully as it was curated, showed that Death always had more going on—an impression driven home by 2011’s more varied (if less consistent) Spiritual, Mental, Physical. Like The MC5 before them, Death drew from the lineage of Detroit R&B—and not just the commercial Motown variety—while sinking their teeth into the darker side of feedback-laced psychedelia and hard rock.

The selling of Death as a proto-punk band certainly helped the long-lost group catch the attention of modern listeners, especially now that they’ve reformed (minus their late leader, guitarist David Hackney). But with their third archival release, Death III, it’s become even clearer that Death had much more than spit and snarl up their sleeves. “North Street” pulses and pounces, but it does so fluidly—and with a bluesy lasciviousness that’s more Thin Lizzy than the Stooges. That aggression carries over into “Restlessness”, a pummeling confessional that melds the homegrown chops of David, bassist-vocalist Bobby Hackney, and drummer Dannis Hackney into a smoothly pneumatic machine. And while the drumless demos “Introduction by David” and “Free” show off little more than searing tones and promising ideas, they’re not significantly sketchier than the studio tracks “Yes He’s Coming”, with its tinges of echoing, off-kilter gospel, and “Open Road”, an awkward, start-stop speed-waltz that highlights Death at their least together and coherent. Death always reached for something just beyond their collective talent, and that’s both the strength and weakness of these recordings—and a reflection of David’s lifelong, and ultimately frustrated, quest toward a spiritual ideal.

The 2013 documentary A Band Called Death simultaneously reinforces and undermines the image of Death as punk godfathers. Even as the word “punk” gets bandied loosely about in the film, some of David’s gentlest compositions, “We Are Only People” and “We’re Gonna Make It”, are featured prominently in the soundtrack. Death III includes both those songs: “We Are Only People” is a spacious guitar meditation that starts out sounding like an interlude off a Hendrix bootleg before morphing into a sprawl of raw yet progressive funk, something Earth, Wind & Fire might have made in the 70s if they’d been a stripped-down, lo-fi garage band. “We’re Gonna Make It” hails from 1992, when the brothers briefly reunited; sweetly clunky, it’s a nugget of uplifting pop-rock—with an almost countrified undertone—that’s poignant because of its corniness, not despite it.

When you take into account the Hackneys’ full body of work—from their R&B outfit that existed before Death, RockFire Funk Express, to their Christian-rock outfit that existed after Death, the 4th Movement—it becomes clear that the “punk” tag they’ve been saddled with is as inaccurate as it is limiting. Even defining punk in its broadest terms, as an ethic rather than an aesthetic, doesn’t cover what Death was truly about. They were in many ways uncompromising—but as Death III shows, they were just as happy to make sweet, pleasing music in the hopes of reaching a larger audience. That conflict of sound and approach, a symptom of the group’s internal tensions as musicians and as siblings, makes these songs both more soulful and tougher to cram in a pigeonhole. The best thing about Death III is that it finally unravels the narrative set up by their previous two albums: that Death was a punk band, one that in some way may have even helped invent punk. It’s an absurd notion, and one that sells short what the Hackney Brothers actually accomplished. The truth is much messier, and much more beautiful.

Death - 2011 - Spiritual Mental Physical

Spiritual Mental Physical

02. The Masks
03. The Change
04. World Of Tomorrow
05. Can You Give Me A Thrill???
06. People Look Away
07. The Storm Within
08. David's Dream (Flying)
09. Bobby Bassing It
10. Dannis On The Motor City Drums

Bass, Vocals – Bobby Hackney
Drums – Dannis Hackney
Guitar – David Hackney

After unearthing a legit lost classic in Detroit garage rock band Death's 2009 collection, For the Whole World to See, Drag City offers a sequel.

Pairing R&B chops with scorching, Stooges-worthy bashing, Death's mid-1970s demos-- compiled and released by Drag City as For the Whole World to See-- lived up to every bit of their missing-link and lost-classic billing when they finally arrived, more than three decades late, in 2009. Spiritual, Mental, Physical-- a follow-up collection of grotty practice tapes and studio goofs culled from a set of tape reels recently unearthed in a Detroit basement-- is a bit less awe-inspiring.

To be fair, For the Whole World to See set a high bar. By the time they hit the studio, Bobby, David, and Dannis Hackney-- a trio of Detroit-based, African-American brothers who temporarily set aside their Motown roots for steam-rolling proto-punk after checking out an Alice Cooper concert-- had their chops down pat. During their original, five-year lifespan, Death didn't make many waves. A self-released 7"-single, "Keep on Knocking" b/w "Politicians in My Eyes", was the group's only official release. It quickly faded into the record collector-ether. But listening now, the music sounds visionary-- a missing link between MC5 and the hardcore punk of the early 1980s. The songs are performed at blistering speed, burbling over with bad attitude. Death were not messing around. In just 27 minutes and seven songs, the trio made a potent argument for its place on punk's Mount Olympus.

But Spiritual, Mental, Physical is the sound of the band figuring out its chops one freewheeling basement jam at a time. The takes are raw-- most of them recorded live to two-track tape in the band's practice space. They're loose and, frequently, unfocused. In a few instances, Death's brilliance is clearly evident. "Views", a choogling riff-rocker that kicks off the collection, wouldn't have sounded out of place on For the Whole World to See. "The Masks" explodes with heavy-metal thrashing, but quickly dials back the fury for a verse lifted directly from the Beatles' "Got to Get You Into My Life". The song's main trick-- leap-frogging back and forth between mellow melodies and full-bore grind-- is one that the band would put to more polished use on songs like "Let the World Turn" and "Politicians in My Eyes", from the For the Whole World to See sessions.

But the record's B-side is padded with less revelatory material-- solo-instrumentals, psychedelic asides, and half-finished song ideas. Aside from "The Storm Within", a garage-leveling three-minute freak-out, it's mostly unremarkable. If anything the collection proves that Death were not produced into existence during a handful of studio sessions. Even goofing off in the practice space, their musicianship is clear, even if their vision hadn't totally solidified. The majority of Spiritual, Mental, Physical was recorded in a practice space, with no intention of public release. It's a collection of unguarded, unconsidered moments. On For the Whole World to See, Death were getting down to business. Here, they're having a good time.

Death - 2009 - ...For The Whole World To See

...For The Whole World To See 

01. Keep On Knocking 2:50
02. Rock-N-Roll Victim 2:42
03. Let The World Turn 5:57
04. You're A Prisoner 2:24
05. Freakin Out 2:49
06. Where Do We Go From Here? 3:50
07. Politicians In My Eyes 5:51

Bass, Vocals – Bobby Hackney
Drums – Dannis Hackney
Guitar – David Hackney

All tracks recorded and mixed at United Sound Recording Studio in Detroit, Michigan, 1975.

No  matter how extensively technology's all-seeing eye attempts to catalog every rock recording ever made, Drag City's recent stream of reissues keeps unearthing uber-obscure excellence at a steady clip. After resurrecting 70s folk singer Gary Higgins and early 80s punk polymath JT IV (John Timmis IV), the Chicago-based label brings us Death, an all-black punk/hard-rock trio from Detroit (not to be confused with the 80s speed-metal band). Comprised of brothers David, Bobby, and Dannis Hackney, the band started out in 1971 playing R&B but switched to rock after hearing the raucous proto punk of their neighbors the MC5 and Stooges. That incarnation lasted only a few years and seven songs, and after balking at Columbia Records' demand for a name change, the band relocated to Vermont and reinvented themselves as a gospel rock group.

...For the Whole World to See, recorded in 1974, requires more ballpark adjustments than your average reissue. For one, most bands today fusing breakneck punk with arena rock bombast do so under a massive cloak of irony, and are commonly shunned (c.f. Electric Six). Making matters worse, Death espouses earnest political views while walking that tightrope. Luckily though, there's enough stylistic diversity and ahead-of-time knick-knacks on the album to prove Death more than just fanboys fawning over Kick Out the Jams and Raw Power.

Leaning heavily on pregnant pauses and choppy two-note melodies, opener "Keep on Knocking" confirms the rock+punk arithmetic of the band's mission statement. The other six tracks don't play out so predictably. "Let the World Turn" starts out in a Pink Floyd-style haze of reverberated guitars and detached vocals before igniting into a frenzied speed punk chorus. The ho-hum AOR verses of "You're a Prisoner" collide with a doomsday refrain straight out of an Ozzy Osbourne nightmare, while "Freakin Out" stands the test of time as the band's most innovative song here, anticipating the jittery pop punk that'd soon arrive from the UK.

The album falls short of a diamond-in-the-rough-caliber discovery, but considering these seven songs are the remains of an aborted 12-song full-length-from a band that reinvented itself every three or four years, For the Whole World holds up well alongside, say, concurrent Blue Oyster Cult or New York Dolls albums. This is the kind of reissue that re-instills faith in today's frustrated rockist, the listener whose fidelity gets tested by a rogues gallery of calculating rock revivalists every year. Armed with profound musicianship and the bona fide origin story so many less interesting bands' press kits grasp for, Death comes across as extremely likeable despite gleefully ripping off all the obvious influences.

Shango Dance Band - 1978 - Shango Dance Band

Shango Dance Band 
Shango Dance Band 

01. Position Pass Power
02. Women Are Great
03. I Need Your Love
04. Son Of Thunder
05. Alupandu-Gbe

In the early years of Fela Kuti's career, well before he would define the genre of afrobeat, and leave an indelible mark on the musical landscape, he was a struggling trumpet player, seeking to redefine the sound of his current group, the art-jazz ensemble Fela Ransome-Kuti Quintet. As he moved his group towards the then-popular genre of highlife in 1963, he lost his bassist in the move towards commercial success, but gained the company of Ojo Okeji, who had a sterling reputation both as a bassist and percussionist in groups like Lagos Cool Cats, Rex Williams' Nigerian Artistes, and Western Toppers Highlife Band, a favorite of Kuti's. Okeji impressed Kuti with his deft jazziness on the bass, so he was in on the spot, and the Fela Ransome-Kuti Quintet became Koola Lobitos. It was Okeji that introduced Kuti to the famed percussionist Tony Allen, (Who would subsequently join Kuti into his greatest years as an artist) as well as conguero Abayomi "Easy" Adio. During his time in Koola Lobitos, Okeji not only contributed deeply melodic, and adeptly rhythmic baselines, but brought his own influence from emerging US soul artists like James Brown & The Famous Flames and Wilson Pickett, heavily pushing Koola Lobitos towards a more soulful direction. This push was often resisted by Kuti, who frequently clashed with Okeji. 1968 proved to be a turning point for the group, as the Nigerian Civil War broke out, and many starving musicians turned to the military for work. Okeji and Adio would leave for the army, while Kuti and Allen kept Koola Lobitos going, where it evolved through different names and iterations and grew into the worldwide afrobeat force that made Kuti an icon during the 70s and 80s. But as Kuti and Allen rose to global recognition, Okeji and Adio would form a new band within the ranks of the 6th Infantry Brigade of the Nigerian Army. Their emblazoned blue jackets earned them the nickname "The Blues , but Okeji preferred the name Shango after the Yoruba thunder god. Shango took the fundamentals of Kuti's famous afrobeat and brought new layers of guitar and horn arrangements, while often invoking supernatural aesthetics, and maintaining a love for the US soul artists that influenced Okeji so much. Because Shango was an army band however, their records were not readily available to anyone outside of the military so their music, including their eponymous 1974 LP, remained relatively unknown even amongst the people of Nigeria. Decades later Comb & Razor is thrilled to present this long-lost Nigerian gem for the first time to a world-wide audience.

During military service with the Nigerian military in 1978, former Fela Kuti collaborators Ojo Okeji and Abayomi "Easy" Adio decided to form a new band. Featuring other musicians recruited from within the ranks of the 6th Infantry Brigade of the Nigerian Army, the Shango Dance Band recorded an eponymous debut album that was only ever available to other military personnel. Here, it gets a first worldwide reissue. Similar in ethos to the Afrobeat sound the duo had helped Fela develop - but with extra layers of guitar, percussion, and gravel-throated U.S soul style vocals - Shango Dance Band is as potent and funky as anything released in Nigeria during the period. Thanks to the excellent Comb & Razor Sound, it's no longer a hidden classic.

Shango is the name for the Yoruba god of thunder in Nigeria and Ojo Okeji, the leader of the Shango Dance Band was all about injecting military power and warlike energy in his own strain of Nigerian highlife and afrobeat. However, apart from all of Okeji's cult-like stories involving him and his part in the Nigerian army during a time of civil unrest in the late 60's and through to the 70's, and his often troublesome relationship with the great Fela Kuti, the truly special aspect of the Shango Dance Band album is that it was never properly released following its production in 1974. Comb & Razor have done the right thing here and, without them, this magical LP would still be locked away in the never-ending vaults of Nigerian music. This is very personal, incredibly singular African jazz-dance with a raucous psychedelic edge that lifts it high and mighty above the competition. A truly special album - DO NOT MISS IT.

Rob - 1978 - Make It Fast, Make It Slow

Make It Fast, Make It Slow

01. Loose Up Yourself 3:25
02. Make It Fast Make It Slow 3:27
03. Not The End 3:53
04. I've Got To See You Again, Lord 3:53
05. He Shall Live In You 5:27
06. But You 3:25
07. Bargain 5:20
08. Back To You 2:45

'Make It Fast, Make It Slow' is the "other" LP by Rob, the Ghanaian cosmic funk legend whose 'Funky Rob Way' reissued by Soundway was one of our favourite records in 2011. Again, lead singer Rob is joined by the Mag-2 army band and their blazing horn section helmed by bandleader Amponsah Rockson. But this time the tempo is much slower, steamier, and with brooding, religious overtones placing it outside the conventions of West African funk records of the time. It's the stripped down, hypnotic, yet lucid vibe of the se tracks which are pushing all the right buttons. The simmering percussion, the tight, punchy horns, that woozy organ, Rob's easy-grooving croon and the restrained guitar licks never crowd each other, even dropping out to complete silence and remerging on the offbeats on the hauntingly mystical 'I've Got To See You Again, Lord', or conducted with elastic muscularity on the blushingly horny title track. Hot music for long, hot days with cool drinks and a headful of whatever.

You have to love artists like Rob posing as corny and tough at the same time on their own album covers. Make It Fast, Make It Slow from 1978 is his second LP, and he was a pretty big star in Ghana back in the days (maybe still is?). The music on the album is a groovy mix of african funk and soul, and I think it have that special Ghana-sound (if you ask the puritans) too. I'm so thankful that record labels like Soundway and Analog Africa reissued a lot of this 70s stuff and make this wonderful groovy music available for us. Shake it up and do the boogaloo, or just make it funky!

Rob - 1977 - Rob


01. Funky Rob Way
02. Forgive Us All
03. Boogie On
04. Just One More Time
05. Your Kiss Stole Me Away
06. More

Backing Band – Mag-2

Rob 'Roy' Raindorf, born on the 13th of May 1949 in Accra, is definitely one of the most enigmatic artists to come out of Ghana. He appeared from nowhere with a unique and twisted sound. An admirer of American artists Otis Reading, James Brown, Wilson Pickett and Ray Charles, Rob began his trade by learning the piano at a music school in Cotonou, Benin.

When his education ended, he ventured out to make what money he could by getting gigs with the movers and shakers of the Beninese music scene, namely Orchestre Poly-Rythmo as well as the Black Santiagos. Absorbing and learning the intricacies of music composition, Rob returned to Ghana where he began to write his own songs and eventually sought the backing of a band, specifically one which possessed horns.

In 1977, a young Rob travelled to the city of Takoradi in western Ghana to approach an army band named Mag-2 whom he had seen perform in Accra. Mag-2 had an entire section of its ensemble dedicated to horns and some of the sophisticated music equipment available in Ghana at the time - Hofner guitars, Yamaha keyboards and the like.

Belonging to the 'magnificient' second battalion of the Takoradi-based army unit, original founder Amponsah Rockson decided to aptly name the band 'Mag-2.' Joining the army during the 1970s was often an easy decision, particularly for musicians, since the army provided not only good music equipment but basic services such as food and medical care.

Mag-2 was essentially filled with the best elements of 'The Parrots,' a highlife band in which Amponsah was the lead guitarist. Their primary task was to entertain soldiers and with the army tour bus, perform from town to town as well as in reputable venues in the captial. Enticed by the style of music Rob had proposed, Mag-2 backed the Ghanaian sensation on two of his most astonishing records - his first and second albums -'Funky Rob Way' and 'Make it Fast, Make it Slow,' both of which were recorded at Essiebons studios in Accra.

Despite Rob's training and musical education, Amponsah was responsible for the vast majority of the compositions, such as building the chord progression and arranging the horns that Rob craved. Rob would even wait for the Mag-2 maestro's cue to begin singing.

Despite early successes, a once-unflinching interest in Afrobeat began to wane by the early 1980s and Disco Boogie rapidly became the vogue style around which label owners and music producers sought to capitalize upon. The style Rob had shaped his career around was in decline and an adequate income consequently became a major concern, forcing him to travel to Hamburg, Germany in search of a financial backer.

Orlando Julius & His Modern Aces - 1966 - Super Afro Soul

Orlando Julius & His Modern Aces 
Super Afro Soul

01. Mapami
02. Efoyeso
03. Ise Owo
04. Solo Hit
05. Onisuri
06. Wakalole
07. Mafagba Seyeye
08. Bojubari
09. My Girl
10. Jagua Nana

Alto Saxophone, Vocals – Orlando Julius
Bass Guitar – Franco Aboddy
Claves – Adeleke
Congas – Oladele Davis
Drums – Akanbi Moses
Guest, Vocals – Jonny Haastrup
Guitar – Adenyi Omilabu
Maracas – Olusola Ololade
Tenor Saxophone – Skido Young
Trumpet – Eddy Fayehun, Francis Sama

Original African release with Polydor logo and Philips stamp on label.
Label states Super Soul as title.

Well, well, it is here at long last – the first Long Play record of Orlando Julius and His Modern Aces.
"But is it not overdue for almost two years", did I hear you ask? Yes, I cannot agree more with you when we consider the fact that over the last four years the band has out a string of best-sellers and moreover as it happens nowadays that an artist with a hit single record to his name almost at once appears on the market with an album containing the hit tune. Overdue, you and I think, but Orlando Julius does not think so. He believes in biding his time. And bid his time, he surely did. The result? A gas, a knock-out which has left me at a complete loss for words. All I can only say is SUPER (and I know I am not doing enough justice to it).
I would suggest you switch your Hi-fi on, and start listening to the record. You can continue reading this later.
Orlando Julius, a native of Ijebu-Ijesha, was born in 1943. His interest in music, dates back to his days at the St. Peters Anglican School, Ikole-Ekiti where he was the school drummer and later became a flutist. By the time he left school in 1957, he had made up his mind to become a musician and so after leaving school he followed a thorough two-year course in his favourite instrument -- the Alto Saxophone.
In 1961, Orlando joined the Flamingo Dandies of Akure but he did not stay long with his band because of an invitation extended to him by his brother, I.K. Dairo (M.B.E.), of Juju music fame to lead his dance band at Ilesha. The burden of leading a dance band soon proved too great for the then nineteen-year old Orlando and so he had to resign his leadership of the band in 1963 and became once more an ordinary bandboy; this time in Eddy Okonta's Top Aces. Although he had tried once and failed, the urge to try his hands again at leading a dance band was still being felt by Orlando. The fulfilment of this desire was achieved through the birth on 15th July 1964, of the Modern Aces.
The band's first record – "Jagua Nana" was released in October 1965. The record was a hit and catapulted the relatively unknown Modern Aces into limelight. "Jagua Nana" was followed by others like "Topless" (which earned Orlando the nickname "The Topless Man"), "Ololufe" and "E se Rere". When the sound of Soul stormed into Nigeria, the band was quick to catch on. It presented us with "Ijo Soul", one oif its best-sellers to date and "The Soul Man is Gone", in memory of the late Otis Redding, one of the greatest soul artists. In fact, each successive release of the band has been accorded a warm reception by the record buying public.
On this album you will hear the new sound of the Modern Aces.

SIDE ONE: MAPAMI – a caution to a spendthrift of a girl friend. This number has got a catchy rhythm. A compulsive, hard driving rhythm section especially the drummer – Akanbi Moses, propels the song along. EFOYESO – reminds me of my school days. It commences with a flighty introduction and then settles into an easy Afro-beat rhythm. The alto sax solo is one of the most beautiful I have ever heard Orlando take and the somehwat avant-garde trumpet solo by Eddy Fayehun will not fail to impress the jazz loving listener.
ISE OWO – this is a soul piece which takes its roots from the traditional Apala music. Guest artist Johnny Haastrup accompanies Orlando on the vocals. SOLO HIT – an instrumental piece composed by lead trumpeter, Eddy Fayehun. It affords the various sections in the ensemble a bit of expression.
ONISURU – Orlando's seemingly inexhaustible supply of beautiful introductions is amazing. The opening passage of this number makes me wonder if he will ever run out of ideas. Notice the beautiful alto-sax phrases which Orlando injects when the wind instruments take over.
SIDE TWO: WAKALOLE – an invitation to the composer's darling, is introduced by Niyi Omilabu's guitar with a repeated theme he carries right till the end of the piece. The song itself has an easy beat quite appropriate to the lyrics. MA FAGBA SE YEYE – a piece of advice to both young and old. The arrangement is quite brilliant especially the delightful obligations by the wind section. BOJUBARI – this is another traditional piece dressed in the rhythmic guise of soul. The rhythm, however, crosses into "Wachamba" under the sax solo but drifts back into the original beat when the singers come up again. Vocal by Johnny Haastrup and Orlando Julius. MY GIRL – a Robinson White composition made popular by the late Otis Redding. On this album it is played a la Orlando Julius with an intriguing admixture of rhythmic influences. Guest artist Johnny Haastrup does the lead singing.
JAGUA NANA – the number that brought the band into recognition climaxes the album. It is here given a contemporary arrangement and lilts along with as much toe-teasing vigour as the original.
This album goes to prove that the Modern Aces swing as hard as the best of them if not harder.


Born in 1943 in Ikole-Ekiti in Ondo State, Nigeria, Orlando Julius Ekemode (“Orlando was really a nickname, taken from the Nigerian actor, Orlando Martins“) had started in music from an early age, becoming the school drummer and learning flute, bugle and other instruments at St Peters Anglican School in Ikole-Ekiti.

“My father died when I was still young so I wasn’t able to continue education after High School,“ remembers OJ. “I told my Mum that I wanted to go to Ibadan, the capital at the time. I reached there in 1957 and went to different clubs at night where bands were playing highlife and juju. I would sit by the stage, watch them and ask if I could feature with them. I was a small boy. One musician said, ’give him a chance!’ and they let me play drums. The crowds loved it and began spraying my forehead with money.

“The same year, I met a guy called Jazz Romero who used to practise outside his house, playing different instruments. I watched him play, watched his fingering and we became friends. I asked him to teach me to play sax. At that time, The Western region Premier Obafemi Awolowo wanted to put music in schools (it was compulsory to learn music at school in Ghana at the time but not in Nigeria). Awolowo decided to raise money to buy instruments and created a central HQ in Ibadan. Any West African could come to that place and learn for free. I was taught by one of the teachers and picked up different instruments – various different drums, the sax and others. I was a fast learner.

“Back in the late ‘50s in Ibadan, because I’m a sax player I started listening a lot to Louis Armstrong’s band, Charlie Parker and Coltrane. There was a shopping centre called Kingsway that stocked records from UK and US and that’s how I started hearing jazz records. Friends like Papa Sidmus and others would come to the club where I played and I would go to their houses afterwards to listen to all kinds of music.

 “On the radio, we only had one station at the time, Radio Nigeria. Not many people could afford to buy radio sets so the government used Rediffusion. They installed a speaker in each house which had a knob to turn the volume down or up – you couldn’t turn it off. At that time, they played both Nigerian music and a lot of foreign music – American, jazz, blues, Afro Cuban, all types.“

Julius would meet trumpeter Eddie Okonta who played a residency at Paradise Hotel in Ibadan. “He needed some musicians and myself, Akanbi Moses (later of the Modern Aces) and others joined his 20-piece Top Aces band which featured standing bass and a big horn section. We played Coltrane, Armstrong, tango, pachanga, foxtrots, a lot of different styles. A lot of foreigners went there from the UK, USA and all parts of Africa. The club would be rocking because we would play so much in one evening. I became the guy who wrote the charts and the parts for the horns.“

Okonta’s band would prove to be a fruitful experience for Julius, touring across Ghana, Nigeria and Africa, before becoming a national sensation during the early years of TV in West Africa. Julius remembers, “In ’58, Awolowo brought TV to Ibadan and Okonta was asked to perform at 6-7pm every Saturday night on one of the very first variety shows on WNTV. Then, Pepsi brought Louis Armstrong to Ghana and Nigeria. When he came to Ibadan, Okonta’s band was chosen to welcome him since Eddy used to play his songs and imitate his voice. A stage was constructed at a roundabout entering Ibadan and, when Armstrong and the band arrived, they  heard Okonta singing and playing his music. When we stopped, the members of each band hugged each other. We jammed together, Armstrong gave Okonta a mouthpiece as a memento and the band exchanged names and addresses.”

Orlando left the Top Aces in ’59 and travelled to Ijabu-Ode. “As musicians, you went where the money took you but the band I went to wasn’t that serious but the leader of the band, Y.S. Akinibosun, became a good friend who later played with Fela during the ‘80s. My brother I.K. Dairo came to play and invited me back home to Ilesa – he had instruments too. So, I went to Lagos and Ibadan to find musicians to play with us. We employed young musicians like Isiaka Adio and Jimi Solanke and started a band, I.K. Dairo and The Globetrotters. The name was chosen because we played music from different parts of the world – Cuba, South Africa, U.S. jazz, all kinds. When we sang, we often used the Ijesa dialect which sounds very minor key. Every time I played a solo, people loved it and shouted ’Afro!’

“In 1961, Jazz Romero secured a contract to form a band in Ondo State and took me with him. We were there for three months until he received another more lucrative offer to go to Akure and become the house band at the new Flamingo Hotel there. The owner was from downtown and had married an English wife. Under Romero, we became the Flamingo Dandies.“

O.J. was soon finally ready to form his own band. Returning to Ibadan, he enlisted some of the members of I.K. Dairo’s line-up including drummer Akanbi Moses, Eddy Fayehun on trumpet, Adenyi Omilabu on guitar, occasionally inviting guest guitarist and vocalist, Joni Haastrup (later of Monomono) and, on 15th July 1964, formed the Modern Aces, beginning a long-standing residency at the Independence Hotel. Students from university came, hailing from many different backgrounds. “My band played highlife but had to play jazz, blues, tango, calypso to cater for the audience becuase the crowd knew how to dance those steps. A lot of students and US ex-pats came to my show. By then, when I was writing, I started putting different parts and styles into my music. It was my own invention to develop highlife.

“Even before I was thinking of recording with the Modern Aces, we rehearsed at home, we played live in Ibadan, we didn’t stop. Wale and Tunji Oyelana both came regularly to see me after their work at the University. Orlando Martins came back and worked for WNTV in Ibadan for a time in ’64. He came up to us at Independence and said, ‘You guys – the music you are doing is 40 years ahead of you’. By mixing the R&B and soul with the African rhythms, we didn’t know what it would be like in the future. I think it inspired a lot of musicians in Lagos. Joni Haastrup – that was his first recording performance on that album. Tunji Oyelana formed a band called The Benders after that. A lot of the highlife artists back then started to put a bit of rock and jazz into their music.“

Those artists included a young Fela Anikulapo Kuti. “Around then, in ’64, Fela Kuti returned to Nigeria from Trinity School in London. He was hired as a producer for NBC Lagos where he worked on a Latin American music programme. He also had a course to do at NBC Ibadan so he came to Ibadan for a period of six months. Ibadan was the mecca of Nigerian music at that time with many different clubs and bands playing juju, highlife and other styles. He always came to my club, liked the band and we would feature him on stage. When he came to form his own band, some of my musicians – Eddie Fayehun, Isiaka Adio and Ojo Ekeji - joined him in Koola Lobitos (they would return to my band later). Ladies loved Fela, even back then. But he never drank alcohol at that stage, just Fanta!“

“In 1964, I was invited to record a single. First, I was able to record two songs at NBC studio, ’Igbehin Adara’ and ’Jola Ade’. However, the label owner was only used to releasing native music like apala, sakara and juju. They couldn’t promote it much but I was glad to have my record. Clubs played it.“

After that, O.J. and the Modern Aces embarked on a series of landmark 45s for Phillips / Polydor. Their first single, ‘Jagua Nana’, released in ’64, became an instant hit and catapulted the previously little known band into the Lagos limelight. Further hits followed – ‘Topless’ (which briefly earned Orlando the nickname ‘The Topless Man’), ‘Ololufe’ and ‘E Se Rere’. Julius remembers the time pressure of the studio sessions: “It was a two-track set up, you couldn’t overdub. If we didn’t do it right in one take, we had to do it again. That’s how ‘Super Afro Soul’ was made. Phillips told me to stop each track after three minutes. They actually had a timekeeper in the studio counting you down! If you went over three minutes, they would simply fade you out.“

Compiling the singles together and adding further tracks, Phillips released ‘Super Afro Soul’ in 1966 as a 10“ album, a confident and effortless union of highlife, jazz and R&B, the music of Nigerian independence fused with the soundtrack to Afro-America’s struggle for civil rights. “I decided to add sounds and make my own soul music. I was listening to Coltrane, Otis Redding, Smokey Robinson, Sam & Dave. I brought in a bit of that here and there. The African rhythms, Kokoma rhythms are the backbone and soul, jazz, even calypso, came together with it to make ‘Super Afro Soul’.“ The US cross-pollination is evident too on ‘My Girl’, a highlife cover of the Smokey Robinson-penned Motown classic. Despite this, Orlando was keen to show that this was definitely an African affair: “We wanted to look different to the American bands, which is why we wore dashikis on the front cover of the record.“

Among the singles compiled for the album was ‘Ijo Soul’, originally released in 1964 and bearing an uncanny resemblance to James Brown’s ‘I Got You (I Feel Good)’ released two years later. “James Brown came to Lagos and Ibadan in 1969 and performed at the Liberty Stadium. I couldn’t get to his gig that night but, after their concert, they brought his band and the William Morris agency people to my club. I remember meeting Bootsy Collins. He came to the stage and said to me, “Orlando, you are bad, you are super-bad!“. The next morning, I visited the Premier Hotel and talked to James Brown for a while. I gave him a copy of ‘Super Afro Soul’ there.“

Orlando went on to record two further albums for Phillips in Lagos: ‘Orlando’s Idea’ and ‘Ishe’, each evolving its own sound as changes and new sounds propelled forward the Lagos music scene. These albums featured a much larger band with a fuller horn section, the Afro-Sounders, from the late ‘60s, plying a deeper, funkier highlife fusion, responding to rock, psychedelia and the heaver funk sounds coming in from the USA and adding a new dimension to Orlando’s lethal Afro melting pot.

“Afro Sounders was essentially the same band as Modern Aces, just with more musicians. New members included trombonist Raheemi Brown and Eddie Fayehun who had come back from Fela’s band. We played a lot of shows across Nigeria, Benin and Ghana and the studio sessions with the band were more open. Since I had become popular, the engineers listened to me and allowed me to play for longer.“

Orlando’s life would change in 1972 following a trip to Germany arranged by his Nigerian label, Polydor. “I went with Polydor to the Munich Olympics,“ he remembers, “and then to the U.S.A and I saw the opportunities for my music there. By 1974, I had moved to New York and then Washington D.C. and formed a new band, Umoja, in 1974. We had a manager called Ron Hood looking after us and booking shows and he handled some of the big US stars – people like Marvin Gaye, the Bar-Kays, Curtis Mayfield, Gil Scott Heron and Isaac Hayes.  Every time he had an act playing, he booked Umoja as support. We practised not far from Marvin’s house in North West Washington so he became a friend and we went to his house regularly.

“That year, Hugh Masekela was returning back from the ‘Rumble In The Jungle’ concert in Zaire, stopped in D.C. and came by our rehearsal. When he walked in, we were rehearsing my song ‘Ashiko’. He started playing fluegelhorn with us. Hugh had an agent but no band so began to use Umoja to back him and we all rehearsed as a group and joined up. We ended up in L.A. and I started working with Hugh’s producer, Stewart Levine. The band begged me to let Masekela record ‘Ashiko’ for his new album and I composed that, ‘Excuse Me Please’, A Person Is A Sometime Thing’ and the title track on his album ‘The Boy’s Doin’ It’ in 1975.

“After that, I stayed on the West coast in Pasadena. Stewart Levine began to call me up for other sessions. I helped him with writing and arranging for The Crusaders who knew my music. When I met them, I taught Stix Hooper Afrobeat drumming. He then asked me to work with him for Lamont Dozier’s ’Peddlin’ Music On The Side’ album in 1977. He gave me a cassette and, when I put it on, I heard the bass and guitar riffs from ’Ashiko’ on the track ’Going Back To My Roots’. I listened to the lyrics and wrote the yoruba chorus which translates as ’let us remember where we came from’. I brought in chants from my older Afro Sounders tune ’Home Sweet Home’ for the second half of the track.“ Julius remained controversially uncredited fort his version and for the subsequent hit cover of the track by Odyssey. The same year, he appeared in the globally successful TV mini-series, ’Roots’ and met his future wife, Latoya Eduke.

The West coast and its thriving music scene would be be home for OJ for over 27 years. “I recorded the ’Dance Afrobeat’ album between the US and Nigeria in 1985 and released it through Shanachie. I played many gigs across the US and Canada including the New Orleans Jazz Festival, twice.“ Other highlights included the opening of the African section of the Epcot Centre and hosting a cable TV show called ’Afrobeat Videos’ from Nashville, where Orlando built a healthy fanbase. “I also recorded an album there, ’The Legend Continues.“

He returned to Lagos on December 15th 1998, set up a recording and rehearsal studio in Surulere and formed his long-running Nigerian All-Stars band. He started the Nigerian Musicians Forum as a medium for musicians to discuss industry issues – members included Chris Ajilo, Steve Rhodes and Peter King. He appeared regularly on Nigerian TV, on NTA’s ’Morning Ride’ and on Galaxy performing full live shows – ’Orlando Julius Live’ – and presenting videos from all over the world on ’Afro Hi! With Orlando Julius’.

By 2001, Western audiences began waking up to Orlando’s illustrious career. UK label Strut reissued ’Super Afro Soul’ before other labels including Soundway and Vampi Soul began releasing his Afro Sounders recordings, all spreading the word on OJ’s pioneering role in Nigerian music.

Because of problems with Nigerian electricity through NEPA which would often cause his studio equipment to blow as well as equipment losses through theft,

Orlando moved to Ghana in 2003 after playing live at Panafest (the long-running Pan-African Historical Theatre Project). He set up a studio in Accra and recorded his most recent album there, ’Longevity & Reclamation’. He moved back to Nigeria in 2008 and still lives in the outskirts of Lagos.

Other recent projects have included recordings with Hot Casa signing Setanta including a cover of his classic ’Ijo Soul’ and sessions with young musicians in Nigeria for a British Council project in association with Soundthread. At the time of writing, he is planning an all-new album with UK super-group The Heliocentrics for release on Strut in April 2014. He also performed his first ever gig in the UK in September 2013 for Afri-Kokoa at London’s Rich Mix.

Quinton Scott

Nzimande All Stars - 1978 - Sporo

Nzimande All Stars 

01. Sporo Disco 16:00
02. Breadwinner 14:52

Producer – Hamilton Nzimande
Recorded By – Peter Ceronio

Hamilton Nzimande's All Stars band were as strong and versatile as the Makghona Tsohle band, always at the top of their game no matter the genre. This time it is early South African disco, with their huge 1977 hit, Sporo Disco, strung out here to over 16 luxurious minutes.

Kelenkye Band - 1974 - Moving World

Kelenkye Band 
Moving World

01. Moving World
02. Dracula Dance
03. Brotherhood Of Man
04. No One Is Born To Suffer
05. Groovy Love
06. Jungle Music
07. Wale Tobite
08. Kelenkye

Jagger Botchway (Leader)
Leslie Addy (Vocals)
Oko Ringo (Rhtyhm)
Officer Toro (Conga)
Joe Wellington (Bass)
Steve Adjeladje (Clarinet)
Soldier (Drums)

Kelenkye Band was at the time Ghana's own supergroup. They released this only LP in 1974 called Moving World. All members has worked with the countries elite musicians before this recording session (like Oko Ringo, Officer Toro and Leslie Addy), but they have never played together earlier. The music on the album has a wide range (for Ghana bands) - afrobeat, highlife, funk, reggae and rock - but everything is played in a very distinctive Kelenkey way and sounds marvelous. This is a damned great and groovy pearl!
Reissued on vinyl, 1974's 'Moving World' is a holy grail of Ghanaian groove alchemy. The title track and 'Brotherhood Of Man' are hard, grinding funk outings, while 'Jungle Music' has a more soulful groove. There's also a bit of reggae in 'Dracula Dance' and old-skool highlife in 'Wale Tobite'. The Kelenkye Band never recorded another album. 'Moving World' was originally issued on the Emporium label.

K. Frimpong And His Cubano Fiestas - 1977 - K. Frimpong And His Cubano Fiestas

K. Frimpong And His Cubano Fiestas
K. Frimpong And His Cubano Fiestas

01. Hwehwe Mu Na Yi Wo Mpena
02. Asase Yi So
03. Awisia
04. Adam Nana (Medley)

Recorded At – Ghana Films Studios Accra
Distributed By – Ofori Brothers, Kumasi

Alto Saxophone – Kofi Abrokwah
Bass Guitar – Slim Yaw Manu
Chorus – Anthony Yeboah, Isaac Yeboah
Congas – Yaw Asante
Drums – Gibson Peprah
Electric Piano, Synthesizer – Tommy Doziz
Lead Guitar – Sammy Cropper
Lead Vocals – K. Frimpong
Percussion – Alex Djubing, Daniel Asare
Rhythm Guitar – Jacob Osae
Tenor Saxophone – George Amissah
Trumpet – Arthur Kennedy

Alhaji Kwabena Frimpong was a singer from Ghana, through the 70s he worked with two different groups, Vis-A-Vis Band and Cubano Fiestas (on this LP). This self titled album was released in 1977, and it's full of typical of time groovy and funky ghana music. Hwehwe Mu Na Yi Wo Mpena appears on Soundway's (support them here) lovely Ghana Soundz compilation, but the other three songs on this LP has sadly never been reissued. This vinyl rip may not be the best audio experience in your life, but until someone re-release the LP, this one is groovy!

Geraldo Pino & The Heart Beats - 1974 - Let's Have A Party

Geraldo Pino & The Heart Beats 
Let's Have A Party

01. Heavy, Heavy, Heavy 6:31
02. Let Them Talk 5:13
03. Africans Must Unite 6:15
04. Shake Hands 4:49
05. Power To The People 5:47
06. Let's Have A Party 4:52

 Born in sierra Leone Pino was a pioneer of African Funk and his track 'heavy x 3' became a classic.
Geraldo Pino was Nigerias own James Brown, no question about that. This LP from 1974 is a true classic in the funky afrobeat genre. Groovy!

Geraldo Pino & The Heart Beats - 1972 - Afro Soco Soul Live

Geraldo Pino & The Heart Beats 
Afro Soco Soul Live

01. Blackman Was Born To Be Free 6:47
02. Man Pass Man, Iron De Cut Iron 6:24
03. Right In The Centre 6:18
04. On The Spot 5:30
05. Woman Experience 5:23
06. Afro Soco Soul Live 6:30

Arranged By, Producer, Composed By, Design – Geraldo Pino

Geraldo Pino lathers up grooves like he's holding soap under a boiling shower. Nearly all his mojo can be sourced from the same crossroads as James Brown, some light from Curtis Mayfield's conscientious soul piercing in on Pino's rooftop moonlight tomcat in his percussive and rhythm arrangements, though his midriff section sources chords from another metaphysical centre. Someone else might be able to throw some answers on how accurate that 'live' boast of the title actually is, the principles of The Beach Boys' 'Party' album possibly more in tune with reality, "Geraldo Pino is recorded in front of a live studio audience" keeps teasing me every time Pino's raps appear before his sweaty hips roll into another bar of kitsch electric organ. Whatever or wherever the truth is, Geraldo Pino is smiling somewhere in between, commanding his stage like a leather boots clad lion tamer master of ceremonies.