Composer and multi-instrumentalist is a seminal yet under-recognized artist on the Nigerian music scene of the 1970s. Though he recorded nine albums in Africa, the U.S., and U.K., Shango is the only one currently available. Recorded in 1974, Peter King's Shango is a mixture of hard African rhythms, James Brown-styled funk, jazzed-up horn arrangements, and political messages. From the standpoint of the Lagos scene, the album is a classic of the period rivaling virtually anything that Fela or Tony Allen were putting across at the time. With King blowing deep-groove soul and out jazz saxophone solos above the chants, the music becomes a boiling pot of hip-shaking sexiness and rage. King being a formally trained musician outside of Nigeria (one of the schools he attended was the Berklee College of Music), his conception of harmony is revolutionary as he strides blues, R&B, soul, post-bop jazz, whole-tone variations, and counterpoint to edgily shift the focus of each tune on the set -- note the sweet soul blowing on "Prisoner of Law" that becomes a big band extrapolation of seven shades in the key of C. The title track choogles along, burning underneath with a series of percussive contrapuntal moves that accent a bassline already fragmenting under the power of the groove, and "Freedom Dance" takes the Brown ethic of overdriven funked-up brass aesthetics into territory that reflects both Eastern repetitive chanting and the gospel shout and roll of Ray Charles. There isn't a weak second here, not a maudlin note. Everything here is so deeply blue it's the brightest black you've ever heard.
by Thom Jurek