King Sunny Ade

Gems From the Classic Years (1967-1974) [Shanachie]

Following the release of Juju Music on Island Records in 1982, Nigerian guitarist and vocalist King Sunny Ade was temporarily at the epicenter of the world music explosion, touring Europe, the U.S., and beyond with his African Beats. The Beats were a “big band,” featuring a full rhythm section, six Strat-wielding guitarists, plenty of percussionists, a pedal-steel player, and various vocalists (often singing in English). But Ade had been a major artist in Nigeria and throughout Africa beginning with his first hit in 1968, and his earlier music was rougher and less tailored for Western consumption. This disc takes up where 2003’s Best of the Classic Years left off, presenting four 17ish-minute medleys along with several shorter songs.
As usual, guitars and talking drums drive the music, intricately weaving and bobbing around the vocal harmonies while simultaneously maintaining a steady groove. There’s no overplaying here, with guitarists Ade, Bob Ohiri, and Segun Hori leaving lots of space for each other and for the music to breathe generally. But their parts are extremely creative and effective, adding just the right amounts of forward motion and splashes of vivid color, and their use of spring reverb and tape echo is impressive and even
startling at times, conveying a sense of playfulness and discovery that has been all but lost in contemporary music. This music will charm nearly anyone, but jam bands should take particular note: a few hours spent listening to and playing along with these recordings will truly alter your consciousness.
—Barry Cleveland