Liberation Afro Beat, Vol. 1

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Fans of Fela, Tony Allen, and to a lesser extent the Daktaris will be hunkering down on the dancefloor to this slab of pure, hot, and heavy Afro-beat from the heart of Brooklyn. Antibalas is a musicians collective dedicated to furthering the Afro-beat gospel at any cost, and with 13 members and a boatload of frantic, bass- and drum-heavy chops, they're likely to succeed. These cats don't just have the form down; they're not just aping Fela, they're deconstructing the Afro-beat rhythms and harmonies down to the last detail and composing new sonic architectures from which to groove and improvise. This is deep, funky, political, spiritual, and greasier than a chicken bone out of the fryer. Tracing in just enough Cuban son to add dimension and the ghost of a sleng-teng rhythm here, a dub bass out there, and the ever-shifting polyrhythms of Afro-beat jazz and hypnosis of James Brown's funky soul, Antibalas takes eight tunes and turns them all into floor-burners. Led by baritone saxophonist and conductor Martin Antibalas, the ensemble numbers six in the percussion section, a four-piece horn section, a bassist, three guitarists, and an organ, with a host of vocalists chanting down the voodoo. "Dirt and Blood," "Si, Se Puede," and the burning wail of "El Machete" are standouts, though there isn't a weak second on this disc. One of two things will happen if you spin this jam at a party: you'll either politicize everyone by pure beat consciousness or they'll drop dead from too much dancing while under polyrhythmic hypnosis. That's the prognosis, folks; and that's as high a compliment as can be paid. Awesome.

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