Black Magic Night: Live at the Royal Festival Hall

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Recorded on July 19, 1977, this double LP (reissued as a two-CD set) contained live versions of songs that appeared on several of their 1971-1977 albums, as well as one ("Living Loving Feeling") that only came out as a single. Osibisa, who anticipated many of the features of the worldbeat sound, cover a lot of ground on this lengthy set -- maybe too much for some tastes. Sometimes the material gets close to traditional African music in its rhythms and chanting; at others, it nearly treads on jazz fusion territory, though not in a bad way. And while Osibisa singer and multi-instrumentalist Teddy Osei says in the liner notes that the band wasn't influenced by Santana, the Afro-Latin rhythms and chant-style vocals in some of the songs certainly remind you of Santana, though again not in an objectionable fashion. There's also some Rahsaan Roland Kirk-style flute playing, and a rendition of their substantial 1976 British hit "Sunshine Day" that finds them at their most pop-friendly. While they might not have been the most innovative or original of these kind of groups, overall this is a lively document of an ensemble that fused African, soul-funk, and some Latin and jazz elements when that sort of mixture was far less accessible outside Africa than it would be in subsequent decades.

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