Liner Note Author: Bill Brewster.
Recording information: Decca Studios, Lagos; EMI Studios Apapa, Lagos; EMI Studios Oregun, Lagos; Marcus Recording Studios, London; Regents Park Studios.
Following their excellent Nigeria Freedom Sounds! compilation, which covered the newly independent country's early-'60s era, Soul Jazz delivers another gem, this time chronicling Nigeria's vibrant late-'70s disco and funk scene. As highlife and calypso acts slowly gave way to the influence of American R&B and funk, the West African nation suffered a horrific civil war in 1967. When the dust tentatively settled, a new breed of young bands had emerged in the capital city of Lagos, ushering in a new decade of music that melded traditional Yoruban rhythms with soul, funk, reggae, rock, and disco. By the mid-'70s, however, a countrywide ban on "luxury goods" was imposed, which included the import of records, leaving the Nigerian music scene to gestate and develop purely on a local level. Over the span of two extremely funky discs, Nigeria Soul Fever: Afro Funk, Disco and Boogie: West African Disco Mayhem! shines a light on this era when artists like Joni Haastrup, Christy Essien, and Tee Mac were at the top of their game, though unknown to the greater world. Filled with previously unavailable rarities, Nigeria Soul Fever is solid front to back, with plenty of high points like Essien's empowered anthem "You Can't Change a Man," Haastrup's powerful "Greetings," and the deep funk of Arakatula's "Mr. Been To." There are some straight-up dance tracks like Haastrup's "Do the Funkro" and Benis Cletin's synth jam "Get Up and Dance," but several also meld politically minded themes with hard grooves, like Arakatula's "Wake Up Africa" and "Free My People," another Haastrup gem, proving why he's the star of this show. Impeccably curated and quite a lot of fun, this collection is another winner from Soul Jazz's ever-impressive stable of reissues. ~ Timothy Monger