Eddy Grant

Live at Notting Hill

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What better venue for an Eddy Grant performance than London's Notting Hill Carnival? The capitol's cosmopolitan denizens hail from around the world, and its large West Indian contingent guaranteed that the artist received an exuberant welcome, although it's clear from the record that his white fans were equally elated. Recorded live at the 1981 festival, Grant's set flows seamlessly across two (vinyl) albums (a video was also released), capturing the excitement, energy, and power of the show. With only ten tracks, this album isn't your typical live hits set (although a clutch of hits are performed), instead the charismatic artist stays true to the carnival atmosphere, with the songs all stretched into superlative extended dance mixes. Grant's band, the fabulous Frontline Orchestra, simply cooks, laying down tight rhythms and a sound that simmers from funk to reggae, with enough hints of calypso to accurately predict the artist's eventual evolution to ringbang. The singer's connection with the audience is awe inspiring, and, even on record, it feels as if he's speaking directly to the listener. Much of the set showcases heavy-hitters; "Cockney Black" is particularly biting, while "Curfew" and "Jamaican Child" also seethe. An entire side is given over to "Hello Africa," and, for a few minutes, Notting Hill and its disparate community suddenly became one African nation. "Walking on Sunshine," meanwhile, becomes the funk monster it always threatened to be, but the true standout is a ferocious "Living on the Frontline," which still has the power to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Carnival took place just weeks after England had erupted in riots, but on that summer day in August, Grant took a divided, frustrated, and despairing city and effortlessly united them in a joyous celebration of sound and soul.

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