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King Sunny Ade - Baba Mo Tunde

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Artist: King Sunny Ade

Album: Baba Mo Tunde

Label: Indigedisc

Review date: Oct. 21, 2010

King Sunny Ade’s sleek and streamlined juju of the early 1980s marked a peak for both Sunny’s career and for juju itself. While it’s always a pleasure to explore the Nigerian vinyl releases from those years, with their medleys and long, unfolding grooves, it’s also satisfying to find that King Sunny’s first studio album in a decade marks a return, with a young and energetic band, to some of the ethos and aesthetic of that previous era.

Baba Mo Tunde seems to draw from aspects of King Sunny’s synchro-style records: the smooth and exhilarating interweave of lead and choral vocals; the insistent hammered-on guitar lines and chordal accents; the layered percussion; the little chunks of funk, pop and highlife dropped here and there into the flow. All this together forms a rich blend of proverbs, pleasure and prayer.

But there are, of course, updates and differences. King Sunny’s voice now evinces a bit of the grit and rasp of age. Gone is the swooping, gliding pedal steel: B-3 organ, in thick Stax-Volt-style washes, or with a touch of jazz-rock fusion, shows up instead.

The long title track is simply magnificent, its easy groove eventually deepening and intensifying, the call and response vocals and layered percussion reaching perfection, a colloquy of guitar lines finding an almost unbearably right-on entrainment. And King Sunny’s own thick-toned, blues-inflected, and conversational guitar solo is a stunner, carrying echoes of his vintage 1960s explorations with The Green Spots.

Coming after all this, a couple of more experimental tracks might seem a bit tacked-on. But the King Britt remix of the title cut is, at least, interesting; the flute and acoustic guitar on “Eyi Ma Dun To” are perhaps a bit unsettling at first, but the song finds true depth as it unfolds, surrounded by a haze of live-sounding chorus vocals.

Worthy of notice throughout the entire album is the clean, high resolution recording quality. It is especially rewarding in regards to the talking drums: Each voice, every timbre, is clear in the mix, making it a thrill for the listener to engage with that particular — and crucial — layering of articulate speech at the heart of juju music.

By Kevin Macneil Brown

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