We’ve spent all week playing these two excellent albums, both of which would fall into the genre of “world”, though we’re getting increasingly tired of typing that to describe music that’s just not USA-influenced RnB or pop.
Keziah Jones’s album is a quality prog / funk / pop / reggae album that just happens to by someone who’s from Nigeria. There’s not a lot of “world” about it, though it does have an African feel. Captain Rugged is a superhero Jones has invented to describe life in modern Africa, as a satire on power, politics and magic.
The nearest it gets to any single artist you would have heard of is George Clinton; it’s a complex, layered album that’s as likely to have a vocal harmony section as it is a big guitar riff or reggae dance section. As for the bass: imagine bass lines like tree trunks, around which all the complex arrangements hang.
We’re going to be playing this album all year but an early standout was Hypothetical, with a great opening line (“You can be my hypothetical wife”), lots of melody, the bass player’s fingers getting fatter by the minute.
Utopia is also good, with its tight funky playing, sassy brass and entertaining lyrics (Possibly: “Don’t have to get up to work / Don’t have to win an award / I’m not very employable / And if I this and that / I’d have to give up my daydreams / Which are getting professional.”
There are slower tunes: Falling is the 70s soul funk of Earth Wind and Fire while Memory is almost a pop tune. A meaty, complex album that will keep you listening for a long time.
Though largely unheard of in the UK, he’s famous elsewhere in the world for his live shows, into which he ropes circus act and the like. While Jones’s CD is clearly a studio album, Chao’s has much more of a live feel to it.
You may have heard track three, Bongo Bong, which was covered by Robbie Williams, and we can see why: self-doubting Robbie would have loved the lyric “They say that I’m a clown / Making too much dirty sound / They say there is no place for little monkey in this town / Nobody’d like to be in my place instead of me,” as well as the fact that we don’t actually think it’s about a man playing bongo. Mike Read would have banned it along with Relax, put it like that. Elsewhere, it’s clever pop in a variety of styles that sounds happy and lightweight, while delivering intelligent and even political songs.
When Chao was a nipper, his dad worked in the Latin American department of France’s equivalent of the World Service, so the lad got to hear plenty of son, rumba and other Latin music at home, while listening to punk and ska on his own, and this album reflects this combination of influences.
Very popular in Europe and South America — apparently Clandestino, is the second biggest-selling world music album, after Buena Vista Social Club — Chao is not well known over here, probably because he mixes genres and sings in French, Spanish and Arabic. Well worth a listen.