1972 Case File #84.

Osibisa, Heads

File Between: War and Manu Dibango

Comments: I knew that Osibisa was one of the first African bands to make any kind of a splash in Western rock and funk circles, but I hadn’t realized just how much they’d internalized Western rock and funk — much of this could have been off an album made by any groovy collective of the period, especially when Robert Bailey, of the nondescript R&B voice, sings his generic lyrics. When they get a head of steam up, they’re excellent, and the middle section of the record, which is devoted to more particularly African and Latin sounds, cooks hard, but the songs in English tend to be embarrassing. I know it’s ridiculous of me to have a grudge against a Ghanian-Caribbean-and-American band for not sounding like Fela Kuti, but not nearly enough in the grooves lives up to the wild outness of the sleeve. (The storming funk of “Ye Tie Wo,” the funky salsa of Willie Colón rewrite “Che Che Kule,” and the dreamy highlife of “Mentumi” excepted.)

A Keeper? Those three songs are essential; and all the rest have their moments, even International Mood Music stuff like “So So Mi La So.” Plus, the sleeve’s a total classic.

Vinyl Rip: Ye Tie Wo

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