TUNE-YARDS, ?UESTLOVE, ANGELIQUE KIDJO, & AKUA NARU - LADY
“You haven’t heard of Fela either, have you…”
Jer Fairall: I think that Merrill Garbus gets somewhat lost here, proof that her sheer force as a presence mixes awkwardly with players more formally disciplined and far less bizarre than her. As a composition, though, this is simply one of the very best sounding things I’ve heard in quite some time, so impressively accomplished that its weakest links eventually just snap into place anyway, as if in deference to the sheer dynamic efficiency of the thing.
Anthony Easton: This isn’t terrible, mostly because Angelique Kidjo has an astonishing voice, ?uestlove is one of the best percussionists in the last decade or so, and Fela Kuti’s original has terribly significant bones. That they made a jazz/funk work out into an Americanized pop song is a bit problematic, and that they invited Tune-Yards, but that it isn’t terrible means there is no forgiveness needed.
Will Adams: There are the snapping drums, that inimitable bassline, the big band brass, the call-and-response harmonies, and the clattering finale you wish would carry on for another ten minutes. I may be biased, as I spent ten hours sitting at an office desk today, but I’ve never been more grateful to encounter a song that asks me to dance so enticingly.
Alfred Soto: I think I’ve been waiting all my life for ?uestlove to play those beats over these horn charts, and Kidjo and tUnE-yArDs sound at home simultaneously as objects of desire and projecting it. In short, this is the party time it’s billed as.
Brad Shoup: Our gang take the “Red Hot” portion of the album title as a mandate, forsaking the ace brooding of the original. It’s not a poor approach by any stretch, especially considering Kidjo and Garbus evaginate the lyric to ecstatic ends. Kuti’s dismissive gnarrs become matters of fact with Kidjo’s delivery. The horns are on that reverent Antibalas tip (and could be Antibalas, for all I know), and Naru’s essentially another rhythmic element, but the damage is hella done.
Colin Small: It’s extremely difficult to replicate a sound without sounding like a cover band or “Weird” Al Yankovic. Yet the creativity that this collaboration brings together is flattened here in favor basically replicating the sound of Fela Kuti himself. Admittedly, the facsimile is a pretty good one, but it lacks Fela’s crucial exploratory length and slow development. It instead includes some rapping. More importantly, while Kuti allowed music to flow from his present struggles, tUnE-yArDs and company restrict its flow to sound like the struggles of the past.
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