Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-07-01


Ofori Amponsah: Odwo (Supermusic, 2007) In Twi and in English, highlife new jack Amponsah has one of those tenors you assume is a falsetto until he feels obliged to spend quality time up even higher, as on the self-pitying "Nothing but Love" or the pitying "Homeless," the sentimentality of which would be easier to resist were it more contained and also if there weren't so many homeless African children. More often he's a cheerleader, as on "Highlife Dancing," with its good Ghanaian sunshine, and "Babicue," where champagne will be served. So sweet he has no need for Auto-Tune, he butters it on anyway, and as with the sentimentality the music just gets more beautiful as a result. He tries so hard you'd be a cad to tell him no. A-

Nigeria 70: Sweet Times: Afro-Funk, Highlife & Juju From 1970s Lagos (Strut, 2011) As with 2008's Lagos Jump, the boon is that the "funk" is so tentative--mostly a few chicken-scratch guitars that barely qualify. The bass lines lope and what trap drumming there is owes nothing audible to Jabo Starks or Ziggy Modeliste. Strut says none of these recordings has ever been released outside Nigeria, and indeed, when I pulled down my vinyl on Dele Abiodun's 15-minute keeper "It's Time for Juju Music" I learned that it had indeed been manufactured in the mother country. Such little-heard luminaries as Victor Olaiya and Ebenezer Obey stake their claims, and I enjoyed Ali Chukwumah's un-chicken scratch "Henrietta" so instantaneously I assumed I'd already heard it somewhere--which it would appear that I had not. A-

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