Tony Allen

Eager Hands and Restless Feet: The Best of Tony Allen

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Eager Hands and Restless Feet is a collection of hits from the long career of Tony Allen, probably best known as the musical director and drummer extraordinaire for Fela Kuti and Afrika '70. While the focus of this album is largely on his solo endeavors, there is a stray item with the rest of Kuti's band present on "African Message." The album starts out with the title track from Allen's solo debut, No Discrimination, which provides relatively straightforward Afro-beat. This is followed by the dub-heavy "Asiko," from the Black Voices album, and another track from No Discrimination, while "Afro Pusherman" gives a look at the jazzy trip-hop-esque Psyco on Da Bus album -- one of Allen's side projects of the same name. "Get Together," also from Black Voices, illustrates the dub influence Allen was exploring around the turn of the millennium, and "Think About It" comes from another of Allen's side projects, the dance-oriented Afrobeat...No Go Die! album. The title track from the juju-inflected N.E.P.A follows, and Eager Hands finishes with a mixture of Afro-beat and London hip-hop from 2002's HomeCooking. Overall, Eager Hands is surprisingly coherent given the broad nature of sounds that Allen is collecting from his journeys. It's Allen himself who keeps the album sensible, though: his underlying beats remain similar despite the genres that he's encompassing, and the beat always stays a little funky. While the years with Kuti are poorly represented here, the progress Allen has made musically since his departure from Kuti's crew is documented perfectly, with touches of dance, juju, hip-hop, jazz, and electronica all thrown together. Ideally, a retrospective of Tony Allen would involve a good deal of Kuti's Afro-beat, but given its single-disc constraint, Eager Hands does remarkably well in presenting a comprehensive overview of what Allen has been doing since 1979 or so. For collectors, pick up a greatest-hits album from Fela Kuti to hear the drum master at work as well.

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