Various Artists: The World Ends: Afro-Rock & Psychadelia in 1970s Nigeria
A ridiculously rich compilation of rocking, funky African music.
And the hits just keep coming. Someone out there has been remarkably busy scouring archives of African rock, funk, and soul from the '60s and '70s, and aficianados of killer fusion have had much to celebrate as a result. Just when you thought the stacks must be wearing thin, here comes Soundway Records with another compilation -- a two-disc set no less, also available as three vinyl albums (featuring two extra songs!) entitled The World Ends: Afro-Rock & Psychadelia in 1970s Nigeria. Pulsing, rocking, funky as hell? You betcha.
The 32 tracks on the double-CD set are almost overwhelming in their variety, but what they all share is passion: for music, for life, for the exploration of new sounds. Songs like "Rough Rider" by the Hygrades and "Breakthrough" by the Funkees (Alert! Coolest band name ever!) are funk-inflected bass-and-guitar workouts, with plenty of reverb and effects to catch the prevailing '60s guitar flavor. The Mebusas' "Mr. Bull Dog" brings a fast-paced, slinky dance rhythm to the mix, one echoed later, with Farfisa thrown in for good measure, by the Tony Grey Super 7 in "Yem Efe."
There's a lot of this: "Eti Ufok" by the Ceejebs leavens its guitar and bass with fluid keyboard riffs and swaths of polyrhymic percussion, but remains a down-and-dirty dance number. People Rock Outfit contribute "Blacky Joe", which sounds like classic rock circa 1974, from its jangly guitar and gurgling organ to its anthemic chorus of "Blacky Joe, come on down!" When the buzzsaw guitar rips in for the final minute, it feels like a little bit of heaven is descending. Meanwhile, the Lijadu Sisters make a rare female presence for "Life's Gone Down Low", a mid-tempo number featuring sweetly harmonized vocals that makes one wonder why there aren't more women in this collection.
There's much more besides, and we're still in the first of the two discs. This collection is too ridiculously rich to do more than touch on the highlights. One of those must be the proto-reggae of "Ugbo Ndoma" by Tony Grey and the Magnificent Zeinians. Impassioned vocals float a dense bed of drums, keys and guitars -- one of many songs that fit such a description, but in this case doing so especially well. "In Concert" by Ofege is a rare instrumental number that builds from a simple downbeat guitar strum to a thundering synth-and-lead riff, underpinned with rattling congas. Horns show up for "The Same Man" by Reme Izabo's Music Research. Although present in some songs, they are less prevalent than on some other collections from the era, which should make listeners who prefer guitar to trumpets (ahem) happy.
Inevitably, as the second disc winds down, some repetition creeps in -- try finding 32 songs from any era which don’t share some characteristics. Overall though, the tunes are distinctive enough, and ordered cleverly enough on the discs, to avoid a sense of sameness. By the time album closer "Egwu Aja" by Ofo the Black Company kicks in, with its hyperactive flute riffs and squalls of distorted guitar, the listener may feel exhausted at the two-hour groove fest. Falling asleep from exhaustion is a distinct possibility. Falling asleep from boredom? Unlikely.