[17 January 2014]
Ben Woods puts together 11 focused spots of Afro- and Latin-flavored-something—Afrobeat, reggae, cumbia, tropicalia—and shivs of disco sass. Most of the work has been done by the man himself, a careful craftsman with an outfit of good guest musicians stepping in to help, all toasting their listeners, shimmying their percussion and offering up a small encyclopedia of ludicrous seductive lyrics. “You want it baby? Here it is,” suggests a sad man fruitlessly. At this point I start wondering what else to say because there’s a slew of other albums like that, and how do I differentiate this one? The instruments seem to have been trimmed together to make the music sound faster, in fact subtly, unnaturally fast and regular, a real/unreal effect, to suit an audience that likes tightly produced blasts of danceable groove. To me it’s dispiriting to hear how readily Afrobeat bends to fit itself into this treatment, considering that it’s a genre that grew so directly out of a singular and dominant personality.