FELA KUTI
Koola Lobitos / The '69 L. A. Sessions

[Wrasse Records, www.wrasserecords.com]

No denying, Fela Kuti stands as the cornerstone of the Afrobeat sound. He released more than 50 LPs but what started it all was this humble release from the 60's. Actually, the release we all knew and grew up with was "The '69 L. A. Sessions". The remainder of this record, coming in the form of "Koola Lobitos" [recorded between 64 and 68] is previously unreleased material. I assume these six tracks were recorded in Nigeria shortly after Fela's return to his native country from London. Koola Lobitos is actually a name of a band Fela formed while studying music in London at the Trinity School of Music. While the sound quality is markedly inferior to the actual "'69 L. A. Sessions", the spirit is still strong. All the Fela signature marks are here - his rousing insistence on a strong brass section, his trumpet blasts along with ever persistent steady rhythm that would in later years see marked development into longer forms. Most of these songs are sung in Yoruba, while clear influences of jazz, Latin music and funk infiltrate the sounds from inside. Especially great is the swinging trumpet blasts on "Laise Lairo" and the soulful "Wayo" in which Fela tackles dishonesty. [It's interesting to see development of this song as it's completely reinvented few years later in "The '69 L. A. Sessions". ] Fela's trip to US in 1969 was a big eye opener. "The '69 L. A. Sessions" were a turning point that saw Fela become the heavy handed political and social force that he was until his death so many years later. Moving away from "highlife jazz" that he still played on "Koola Lobitos", these sessions afforded a real breakthrough in his musical perspective. Right off the bat, "Viva Nigeria" tackles the civil war in his native country. Over a steady rhythm, he talks quite calmly about the strife of his countrymen. "This is Sad" is a piece that expresses Fela's sadness of missing his family back home. The beats are steady, the rhythm is percolating hot and what's most important, the horn section is absolutely stunning. I absolutely love the way the horns attack the song from all directions on "Witchcraft". This was the crossroads of music and politics. Fela ensured these two elements came in a fashion that was stunning and confrontational. From beginning to end, a definite masterpiece!

-Tom Sekowski


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>> FELA KUTI - Koola Lobitos / The '69 L.A. Sessions
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