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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

So here’s the deal: I have a little more than 70 CDs to review. So I’m going to do a few batches of these short, one-sentence reviews to get caught up.

Sound good? Awesome!

Let’s go!

Sleeper “Behind Every Mask” – A nice attempt at making a minimal electronic album from little more than blips and bleeps, but it often relies too heavily on being more noise than it is music.

Various Artists “Luaka Bop: 21st Century, 21st Year” – Luaka Bop offers up this fantastic compilation (celebrating their 21st year in existence) featuring 14 of the label’s superstars including Jorge Ben, Shuggie Otis, Susana Baca and Mr. Luaka Bop himself, David Byrne.

Cheer-Accident “Fear Draws Misfortune” – A haphazard and scattered mix of experimental avant-prog-rock that falls somewhere between a watered-down Zappa album and a creepy off-off-off-Broadway musical.

Dazy Head Mazy “Mercury Said 65” – If you ever attended H.O.R.D.E. Fest or own any CD from Blues Traveler, Barenaked Ladies or Hootie and the Blowfish you’re gonna have a huge boner for Dazy Head Mazy… and I’ll let you decide whether or not that’s a good thing.

Say Hi “Oohs & Aahs” – The project of solo singer/songwriter Eric Elbogen, Say Hi’s first label debut is an inspired disc of fable-like storytelling laid over subtle sounds and strumming.

Willie Nelson “Naked Willie” – Only Willie Nelson has the power to take 17 of his vintage RCA tracks (originally released from 1966 to 1970) and strip them down to the bare singer/guitar essentials… and thank Christ, because the result is Willie sounding exactly the way he had intended to be heard: on top of his game and naked as hell.

The Prodigy “Invaders Must Die” – Liam Howlett and Co. return with the familiar heavy bass and harsh beats that made their 1997 album “The Fat of the Land” a dance floor favorite, giving us a new Prodigy album that is laced with vintage Prodigy sound.

Dengue Fever “Sleepwalking Through the Mekong” – An ABSOLUTELY AMAZING CD/DVD soundtrack/documentary collection. The documentary follows Dengue Fever lead singer Chhom Nimol as she returns to her native Cambodia to tour during the 2005 Water Festival. The accompanying soundtrack features classic tracks from Cambodian musicians like Sinn Sisamouth and Meas Samoun. And yes, I’m aware this review breaks the one-sentence rule, but it’s one of the best things I’ve been sent to review in awhile and therefore deserves the love.

ApSci “Best Crisis Ever” – A fantastic follow-up to 2005’s “Thanks For Asking,” this husband/wife duo returns and continues to push the boundaries of experimental hip-hop, delivering familiar ApSci beats in a mixture of the fresh and new; a shining star in Quannum’s already bright sky.

Iggy Pop “Preliminaries” – The most bold, beautiful and bizarre Iggy Pop album to date, featuring The Stooge himself crooning in a Leonard Cohen-esque fashion (but in French), singing love ballads and trying his hand at… jazz?

J. Todd “Ryzzynynce” – An electronic instrumental bit of brilliance from Milwaukee’s own J. Todd, with sexy-smooth synthesized sounds and sweet samples, “Ryzzynynce” is the perfect album to have playing on loop throughout the day as you bust your ass to get shit done… like writing a thousand CD reviews.

Bibio “Ovals & Emeralds EP” – A new six-song EP from Bibio (who I covered not too long ago), a one-man band whose scratchy, old-timey instrumentals transform your CD player into a phonograph.

Beck “One Foot In The Grave” (Remastered) – This remastered version of Beck’s 1994 release gives fans an album that is now nearly twice its original size, with all of its previous tracks as well as a ton of new b-sides… and now it’s all cleaned up and pretty sounding!

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds “Your Funeral… My Trial” (Remastered), “The First Born Is Dead” (Remastered), “From Her To Eternity” (Remastered), “Kicking Against The Pricks” (Remastered) – Nick Cave’s entire back catalog is getting a major reworking with remastered versions done up in 5.1 surround sound. These mark the first four in a set, and if they’re anything like what’s coming it’s going to be a very nice collection to own. Each disc is now a double-disc set, with one containing the remastered album and the other containing the disc in 5.1 sound. Also included on each disc are b-sides and singles. Sure, if you’re a huge Nick Cave fan, chances are you already own all of this music. But you don’t own it like this.

More coming… goddammit.

-Shady

Old Poop!