The Rough Guide to Highlife/Electric Highlife
Highlife as Pop and Not
The Rough Guide to Highlife (World Music Network)
Although the label's second pass at this expandable concept--which as has been its regrettable recent practice isn't marked as such anywhere on a package that in this case is orange and bears the serial number 1280CD--tends quirkier and quieter, in-house compiler Rachel Jackson goes for the gut tunewise. From the surprising pre-Afrobeat Fela who opens to the gospel falsetto-as-girl group who close, every song stands out, so much so that Jackson really could have risked Celestine Ukwu's "Osundu" rather than repeating the oft-compiled "Igede." Special faves: the Black Beats' "Tsutsu Tsonemo" for hook, Gentleman Bobby Benson's "Taxi Driver" for lyric, Francis Kenya's "Memia" for guitar compression, and Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe's "Osondi Owendi" for guitar expansion. There's a slight tailoff before the gospel closer, but not so as to spoil your appetite for the bonus disc by the university-based trio Seprewa Kasa. On Riverboat four years ago, I found their preservationism a mite polite. Here the same album provides a graceful, restful, informative coda. A
Electric Highlife: Sessions From the Bokoor Studios (Naxos World '02)
Ghanaian-Nigerian highlife was a pop music not just because it was urban and popular, but because it produced something resembling hits and stars‑-in their world, the Victors Uwaifo and Olaiya were genuinely famous. Not these eight early-'80s guitar bands John Collins recorded in Accra. As all too part-time musicians in a ruined economy, they share a likably ramshackle feel, which infused by the good cheer they mustered in the face of 100 percent inflation is enough to sell this collection. But I noticed a funny thing when I looked closely at the second Rough Guide to Highlife, which is that its two finest tracks began their public life at Bokoor: the hummable one by the Black Beats, who had a long if varied career elsewhere, and the musicianly one by Francis Kenya, who seems to have been Collins's greatest protege. Think there were some players over in Ghana? Must have been. A MINUS
I already have Electric Highlife, I got it after reading the Home of the Brave article in the VV in 2002. On the website is a link to that article and an A grade along side it. I played it quite a bit when it first came out and still play it from time to time. Great road trip music.
As far as the Rough Guide series I always go with the physical copy route to get the liner notes even though the download option is easier. My local store had the Morocco one so heres hoping on this one.
The bonus disc got rated B+ in 2008 and I don't own that one. My pockets aren't deep enough to but every B+ that comes my way.
My Expert Witness review of your new highlife comp is up, but I'm confused about the title. Amazon says 2nd Edition in (), B&N Second Edition in , iTunes Second Edition in (), but I don't see these words in any part of the PDF you sent. I've listed it (Second Edition). But does the disc itself justify this clarification, or was it a corporate afterthought (albeit one you should really try to be clearer about in the future)?
At least one of these links should work:
Great. More African music. You can skinny- dip with Ali, Bono, and Clooney.
Pop music is not universal; it is tribal. It is not populist; it is elitist. It is not democratic; it is totalitarian. It is not art; it is non-art. It is not on the side of our better angels, our worse demons, but on the side of - well, absolutely nothing at all.
Don't buy African "albums." What's of value musically, we steal. Claim we invented it, sell it, make a pile, buy a yacht, order supermodels to-go, walk away whistlin' "Dixie" - or "Oh, Susannah!" - or "Fascinatin' Rhythm" - or "Heartbreak Hotel" - or any damn thing we want to whistle. That's America.
You know how to whistle don't you, Professor? You just put your lips together, and blow.
I thought "Electric Highlife: Sessions From the Bokoor Studios" had already been graded and given an A in the write up 'Home of the Brave.' -
"And yet I find all 13 tracks cheerful and inspirational, tuneful and rhythmically engaging."
Is the A- a reexamination after a closer look? Just my 2 cents, I think it is a full A.
Bobby Benson's "Taxi Driver" is on an 'A' record? Best news I've heard all week -- that song's a classic! Nice also to see that the "bonus disc" (a dodgy thing with this new series of Rough Guide comps) could actually be worthwhile.
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.
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