March 20: 13th Floor Elevators, Barry Adamson, Fela Kuti

The 13th Floor Elevators, ‘The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators’.

As you might have guessed from the album title, this lot were an acid-fried psychedelic group from the 1960s. This is more the frenzied California style of psychedelia (although the band were Texan) than the cuppa-and-Quaaludes English brand. It mostly sounds like everything else on the Nuggets set, although features the almost unique sound of the electric jug, which is often its most distinctive feature.

Barry Adamson, ‘Oedipus Schmoedipus’.

Adamson was a member of Magazine and the Bad Seeds. This record isn’t easy to categorise, but bridges the gap between – of all things – Portishead and Fatboy Slim, moving deftly between BBC-friendly acid-jazz/big-beat muzak and unsettling filmic pieces. Occasionally a pain, but never dull.

Fela Kuti, ‘Zombie’.

Just two tracks over 29 minutes, ‘Zombie’ is an impossible-to-pigeonhole combination of jazz, afrobeat and funk. A courageous attack on the Nigerian government, who took it so seriously that they invaded Kuti’s commune, beat him up and defenestrated his elderly mother. According to Wikipedia, ‘Kuti’s response to the attack was to deliver his mother’s coffin to the main army barrack in Lagos and write two songs, “Coffin for Head of State” and “Unknown Soldier”, referencing the official inquiry that claimed the commune had been destroyed by an unknown soldier.’ Music is serious business in Nigeria. Anyway, the music itself is great, matching the urgent anger of the lyrics. I like to think the brevity of the album is determined by Kuti’s need to immediately release the record: there wasn’t a moment to lose.

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Author: JT Wilson

Listening to all of the albums in the '1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die' book (2006 edition).

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