King Sunny Adé had been making his own music since 1974 with his group the Green Spots before creating his large African Beats group. This band, despite making literally over 100 records in Nigeria, failed to stir much Western interest until Mango Records, a subsidiary of Island, took a chance and issued the breakthrough album Juju Music in 1982. With its seven extended cuts, it introduced King Sunny Adé & His African Beats to the U.S. as well as England and most of the rest of Europe -- save for France, where the band had previously been able to tour. This U.K. two-fer reissue of 1983's Synchro System and Aura (on Cherry Red's T-Bird imprint) is comprised of the other two recordings in the band's Mango catalog (the band was dropped after sales of these two recordings proved disappointing to label bosses who tried to market Adé as "the new Bob Marley"). While not as qualitatively strong as Juju Music, these recordings are not without their merits -- and placing them on a single CD makes for a much more satisfying listening experience. The virtual guitar armies heard on both albums create a still unique sound well into the 21st century. Standout cuts on the first album include "Synchro Feelings," "Synchro System," and "E Wele." Adé is on lead guitar backed by three other guitarists: Bob Ohiri, Segun Hori, and John Akpan, as well as steel guitarist Demola Adepoju, a slew of talking drums, bass, and a backing chorus. Aura includes these three principal guitarists as well as some different personnel, though the band is just as large. This set's highlights include the hypnotic "Ase," the labyrinthine "Gboromiro," and the sprightly "Oremi." For those looking for remastered versions of these seminal albums, this set with its budget price point is well worth seeking out.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek