Finding out that Nigeria had thriving psych-rock and funk scenes in the '70s is akin to discovering Yemen harbored a killer ice-hockey league in the Phil Esposito era. But several bands in the Lagos area were absorbing the Anglo-American funkadelic zeitgeist and putting distinctive spins on freaky groove construction, largely inspired by ex-Cream/Airforce drummer Ginger Baker's 1970 visit. Yes, there was more to the West African nation's sonic diet than Fela Kuti.
Nigeria Rock Special: Psychedelic Afro-Rock & Fuzz Funk in 1970s Nigeria (Soundway) plumbs the vaults for 15 mood-elevating obscurities. Unbelievably, this bracing music has been unheard for 30 years.
A song like the Funkees' "Acid Rock" (ha) may seem superficially generic, but listen closely and you can detect James Brown and the Doors' DNA being mutated into something refreshingly choppy and tangy. Joe King Kologbo & His Black Sound bring a rambunctious garage-rock energy to a Santana-esque rave-up. BLO churn up some eerie kundalini with the loamy, chill-inducing "Chant to Mother Earth," as do Ofo the Black Company on the bliss-funk seducer "Eniaro." Really, it's all grandísimo. I recommend playing this at your next party at which mind expansion is on the agenda (the disc makes one ponder with envy the potency of Lagos's hallucinogens).
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Nigeria 70: Lagos Jump (Strut) offers 16 more slices of aural sweetness. Remarkably, there's no overlap with Nigeria Rock Special. However, Nigeria 70 bears less Western influence, reflecting more the native, post-Fela outpouring of Afrobeat, highlife and hypnotic funk. Ify Jerry Crusade's "Everybody Likes Something Good" is a crucial specimen of the latter style, while Peter King's "African Dialects" heavies up Afrobeat and Ashanti Afrika Jah typify the irrepressible momentum, sprightly chiming guitars and joyful vocals of highlife (possibly the most apt genre tag ever). And Dynamic Africana are the perfectly named champs of the entire collection. The positive vibes emanating from Nigeria 70 should be bottled and sold over the counter in these depressing times.