Fela Ransome-Kuti* & The Africa 70* ‎– Confusion

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original nigerian copy

Tracklist

Confusion Pt. I
Confusion Pt. II

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gmos

gmos

October 17, 2012
edited over 3 years ago
referencing Confusion, LP, EMI (LP) 0004

Fela & The Africa 70 band, especially drummer Tony Allen, are at the absolute peak of their powers here. This is just one monster 26 minute track split over the 2 sides of the vinyl, not unusual for Fela. Side A is the typically epic long instrumental build (over 14mins!) before the vocals kick in on Side B (just under 12mins). Yes, it contains all the typical elements of Fela's Afrobeat formula, and some may complain that a lot of his records sound the same or lack musical focus over the extended playing times, and while that may ring true for some of his later material, in the period from the end of the 60's to the mid 70's Fela and his band were on fire on almost every record. Confusion is a fine example of this, showing the range of their musical prowess, the song is introduced by Fela's keyboards interplaying with Tony Allen's drums, creating a spacey avant-garde jazz vibe, with tension gradually built over a couple of minutes before the rhythm comes in, first just the bass, then rhythm guitar, then the beat hits, then the horns, and now nearly 6 mins into the track and we're off!!! What an intro! And the track only builds and builds, Fela is in fine form on the Sax, the vocals are great too, with the familiar call and response between Fela and the backing singers, with some subtle dub effects every now and then. The message in this song is about the chaos on the streets of Lagos, crazy traffic, services overloaded, corruption, people on the streets speaking a multitude of different languages, "When we talk say Confusion, everything out of control." The track eventually closes out with more sparse keyboard and drum interplay, and after 26 mins, we're done.

Once again, I just need to give Tony Allen special credit for his performance on this record, absolutely incredible drum patterns. When subtlety is required, like during the intro and outro, his lyricism is really inspired, and when the beat hits, Tony Allen hits hard! When listening to him here, you understand why Fela felt he needed to hire 3 drummers to play the same patterns after Tony left at the end of the 70s.

For some reason this release wasn't included in the extensive vinyl reissues of Fela material by Celluloid and Barclays at the end of the 90s, early 2000s, although it was reissued on CD. But vinyl lovers will need to pay a little extra to get this one, it's definitely worth it though!

Edit: Good news! I see Knitting Factory included this one in their recent Fela reissue series (2012).