Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

King Sunny Ade and His African Beats: Juju Music [Mango, 1982]
The Message, the unavailable-in-the-U.S. Nigerian LP that precedes this made-for-export overview conceptually, actually comes closer to pop--it's brighter, edgier, more tuneful. The music here is all flowing undulation; even the experimental synthesizer interjections, while recalling the startling syn-drums of great disco, seem somehow rubberized, springing suddenly outward and then receding back into the slipstream. It's almost as if Chris Blackwell, aware that it was absurd to think AOR, aimed instead for a kind of ambient folk music that would unite amateur ethnologists, Byrne-Eno new-wavers, reggae fans, and hip dentists, just for starters. But never fear--not only do these confident, magical, surpassingly gentle polyrhythms obviate the organic and the electronic, the local and universal, they also make hash of distinctions between background and foreground. I can imagine somebody not loving Sunny Adé; I can't imagine somebody disliking him. A-