FELA RANSOME KUTI & AFRICA 70 Expensive Shit (Label Maison/Wrasse/Knitting Factory/Kalakuta Sunrise)
This 1975 long player is more of a 12” single than what we might recognise as an album, with one long (11+ minutes) track per side. The genesis of the title is explained by Kuti on the cover thusly - “The man in uniform alleged I swallowed some quantity of hemp. My shit was sent for lab test. Result-negative.” - although this omits the fact that the negativity was a result of a fecal exchange scheme with another inmate rather than any magical properties of Fela’s digestive system.
Musically, on both sides stinging horn licks explode out of complex polyrhythmic grooves. Cultural whitewash that it seems to yet again cite Talking Heads’ “Remain In Light” as a reference point, perhaps it’s also a backhanded compliment to Kuti’s sphere of influence. Bringing an almost jazz-like structure to funk and Afrobeat, Kuti holds off the vocals until the grooves have been firmly established over many minutes. Riveting in its way, nevertheless it’s not hard to imagine that in quantity it could get quite repetitive.
Brought back to Western vinyl courtesy of a coterie of tiny labels, this new reissue of “Expensive Shit” appears to ape the shabby chic of the original Nigerian issue, albeit packaged and pressed to contemporary standards. Given that this is the kind of album that’s staunchly resistant to audiophile deluxification, it’s as good as it needs to be.