Montag, 19. Dezember 2011

Pete Seeger - American Folk, Game and Activity Songs for Children

This hour-long CD combines the entirety of two children's-oriented Seeger LPs, 1953's "American Folk Songs for Children" and 1962's "American Game and Activity Songs for Children", onto one disc.

The eleven songs on "American Folk Songs for Children" were specifically selected from an identically titled book anthology of folk songs for children collected by Seeger's stepmother, Ruth Crawford Seeger. Pete Seeger renders them plainly and simply, singing and playing and banjo, on a program designed especially (but not solely) for children between three and seven years of age. "Jim Crack Corn," "Frog Went A-Courting," and "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain" are some of the better-known tunes on the record, but not all of them are as overly familiar.

"American Game and Activity Songs for Children" focuses especially on songs associated with activities and dancing, sometimes sung a cappella, sometimes sung with accompaniment from Seeger's banjo. "Skip to My Lou," "Ring Around the Rosy," "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush," and "Yankee Doodle" are some of the more well-known songs here - at this point, they're probably more over-familiar than they were when the album was first released - but there are less overdone ones here too, including the spiritual "Liza Jane."



Pete Seeger - American Folk, Game and Activity Songs for Children
(320 kbps, no cover included)

Here you can download the liner notes.

Sonntag, 18. Dezember 2011

Fela Kuti & Africa 70 - Sorrow, Tears and Blood (1977)

"Sorrow, Tears and Blood" (1977) accurately depicts the trail left in the wake of the February 18, 1977, raid by 1,000 armed Nigerian army men on Fela Kuti and his Kalakuta republic. In keeping with the format upheld on a majority of Kuti's long-players, this disc contains a pair of extended works, featuring one title per LP side.
In contrast to the hard-edged and aggressive Afro-funk that Kuti and his Africa 70 became synonymous with, both the A-side title track and B-side, "Colonial Mentality," are seemingly staid, in light - or perhaps because - of the cruel state-sponsored attacks that he and his extended family suffered.

"Sorrow Tears and Blood" is neither a full-blown, up-tempo funk drone nor a somber dirge. The even-handed, mid-tempo groove trots along at a steady pace and features some comparatively sedate sax work from Kuti. Even the instrumental introduction - which has been known to clock in at over five minutes - is reduced to well under three. His lyrics are starkly direct - "Everybody run, run, run/Everybody scatter, scatter/Some people lost some bread/Some people just die" - yet the emotive center is gone. Perhaps this is the result of fear, shellshock, or a combination of the two. Kuti's words, however, remain as indicting as ever: "Them leave sorrow, tears, and blood/Them regular trademark."

 "Colonial Mentality" returns to a more seething and slinky musicality. The dark and brooding bassline undulates beneath a brass-intensive Africa 70. Rarely has Kuti's musical arrangements so perfectly imaged James Brown's J.B.'s or Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra. The message is delivered as a fable, demonstrating that it is the individuals who live in a stifling "Colonial Mentality" who are the slaves. His preface, stating that the colonial man had released them yet they refuse to release themselves, sets out to prove that slavery is a continual and concurrent state of mind for Africans.

(320 kbps, front cover included)

Donnerstag, 8. Dezember 2011

Fela Kuti & Africa 70 - Kalakuta Show (1976)

By the time of 1976's "Kalakuta Show", Fela Kuti's releases were becoming to seem not so much like records as ongoing installments in one long jam, documenting the state of mind of Nigeria's leading contemporary musician and ideological/political dissenter.

Thus, any one album works better on its own than it does when it has to bear comparison with the rest of his mountainous output. The track "Kalakuta Show" was unexceptional by his own standards, though it was a respectable lock-groove song that followed the usual graph of Kuti's song progressions. The lyrics, at any rate, go far outside the usual funk/pop spectrum, detailing his harassment at the hands of the Nigerian police.

"Don't Make Garan Garan" was musically more effective, particularly in its use of the artist's characteristically eerie, out-of-sync-sounding electric keyboards.

Fela Kut & Africa 70 - Kalakuta Show (1976)
(320 kbps, front cover included)

Mittwoch, 7. Dezember 2011

Fela Kuti & Africa 70 - Expensive Shit (1975)

This album is an overt response to the consistent harassment afflicting Fela Kuti's Kalakuta Republic in the early '70s under the oppressive Lagos authorities. The title track is a direct reference to an actual incident that occurred in which the cops planted a marijuana cigarette on Kuti - who promptly swallowed it and therefore destroyed any evidence. He was then held until he could pass the drugs from his system - which miraculously did not occur when his fecal sample was then sent for analysis, thanks to some help from his fellow inmates. Because of the costs incurred during this debacle, Kuti proclaimed his excrement as "Expensive Shit".

Musically, the Afro-funk and tribal rhythms that Kuti and his Africa '70 put down can rightfully be compared to that of James Brown or even a George Clinton-esque vibe. The beats are infectious with a hint of Latin influence, making the music nearly impossible to keep from moving to. Although the band is large, it is also remarkably tight and malleable enough to accompany and punctuate Kuti's vehement and indicting lyrics. The nature of what Kuti says, as well as infers, amounts to much more than simply whining or bad-rapping the law. His witty and thoughtful raps not only relate his side of the incident, but do so with tongue-in-cheek humor - such as the statement that his oppressors must really enjoy his feces because they want to examine it so urgently. Yet, he tries to stay away from it, for somewhat obvious reasons.

The album's B-side contains the metaphysical "Water No Get Enemy", one of my all time Fela favourite. This is a comparatively jazzy piece, with Africa '70 again exploring and stretching out its impulsive beats behind Kuti's singing. The track features some of his finest and most inspired keyboard work as well. He weaves hypnotic and ethereal electric piano lines over the earthy-sounding brass section. The laid-back groove works well in contrast to the manic tempo of "Expensive Shit."

Fela Kuti & Africa 70 - Expensive Shit (1975)
(320 kbps, front cover included)