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Knitting Factory Records is my new best friend. Why? Because they’ve taken on the major task of remastering and reissuing Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti’s entire catalog.

Since Fela’s catalog reads like a White Pages, Knitting Factory has decided to release this collection in batches. The first batch of reissues–titled “Chop ‘N Quench”–collects nine albums of some of Fela’s earliest work. The nine albums are collected in a six-disc set (some of his albums were short enough to fit two on a disc) and are available both as digi-pack hard copies and digital downloads.

The albums included in the set are: “Confusion/Gentleman”; “Koola Lobitos/The ’69 L.A. Sessions”; “Live! (with Ginger Baker)”; “Open & Close/Afrodisiac”; “Roforofo Fight/The Fela Singles”; and “Shakara/London Scene.”

The work here spans from 1969 through 1974, documenting Fela at a time of great experimentation. Long before he honed the Afrobeat genre he’d forever become synonymous with, Kuti tested the waters of sound. Fela became known as the ringleader of numerous big bands (Africa ’70, Nigeria ’70, Egypt ’80, etc.), but here his bands and their sound are stripped down.

The result is familiar, of course, but the music feels more like a glimpse of things to come. These earliest albums serve as sketchbooks and capture a sound that many fans might not be all that familiar with. A good example of this is the collection’s live album; recorded in 1971, the disc features Fela’s Africa ’70 with guest drummer Ginger Baker of the band Cream.

As we get further into the 1970s (especially on “Confusion/Gentleman”) Kuti is coming upon what would become the golden years of his career. It’s his most well-known music (and it sounds better than ever now that it’s been remastered), but now having heard what came before it the music becomes just another step in the evolutionary ladder of Fela’s sound.

Luckily, Knitting Factory is busy at work on re-issuing the next step. I can’t wait.

To learn more about the Fela reissues, click here.

Fatboy brought me to Fela,

-Shady

Old Poop!