King Sunny Ade

Best of the Classic Years

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If you want to delve into Ade's work before Island tried to make him into a star in the 1980s, this is the perfect place to start. The tracks here, recorded between 1969 and 1974 for the Nigerian market, are the work not of a master in the making, but already formed. The easy groove of juju is apparent; the lengthy conversations between guitars and percussion are absolutely glorious. The band stretches out well, sliding from one piece to another, as on "Sunny Ti De," which lasts a wonderful 18 minutes, the lengthy five-minute introduction establishing the mood before vocals enter. While the recording quality is a bit hazy on some of the material, there's no denying the power of the music, including Ade's own guitar work, which is never less than glorious. Those who only know his later work will miss the pedal steel, which only appears on the 18-minute "Synchro System" (a track Ade would re-record a decade later), where it takes off smoothly like an airplane and the band churns behind. It's fresh, it's glorious, and the players are loving every second of it. Indeed, their joy is absolutely palpable throughout this disc -- they're having a blast. And so will the listener. This is Ade at a very early peak.

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