Recording information: Berlin Jazz Festival (1978); Berlin, Germany (1978); Photogram Studio (1978).
Arranger: Fela Kuti.
Another duo of albums on MCA's recollection of Fela Kuti's various landmarks. This double album really consists of two songs -- lengthy ones, as they tend to be anyway. The first half of the CD consists of a live performance from Berlin in 1979, V.I.P.. The rest of the concert that it was taken from was never released. This concert was important in its own right, as Fela was finally able to perform after being banned (officially or unofficially) from performing in a number of African nations due to his inflammatory lyrics. This concert gave the band some money again. Unfortunately, the great Afrika 70 band broke up after this very concert, due to rumors (or facts?) that Fela planned on using the money from the concert to fund his unsuccessful bid for president of Nigeria. As such, this stands as the last recording of the Afrika 70 ensemble (Egypt 80 would follow, but lacked some of the power and coherence of the Afrika 70). Following V.I.P. is Authority Stealing, an album recorded a couple of years prior. This album was actually inflammatory enough to initiate another round of beatings to Fela from the hands of government thugs, this time nearly killing him. The music itself was relatively standard fare by this time, but the lyrics attempt to rise to a new level of criticism of government corruption. In both of these albums, the music is relatively standard in and of itself, but the lyrics are noteworthy for their level of criticism and blame. The albums this time through are perhaps more important historically than musically. Still, anything by Fela has the ability to pump out something worth dancing to. Pick these ones up as a fan of Fela, but as a newbie, look into perhaps Confusion/Gentleman or Shakara/London Scene first. ~ Adam Greenberg
Down Beat (4/01, p.76) - 3 stars out of 5 - "...His mixture of raw energy and sophistication is as remarkable today as it was when he first put it all on wax..."