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Demon Fuzz - Afreaka! CD (album) cover

AFREAKA!

Demon Fuzz

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.18 | 57 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars DEMON FUZZ may have only put out a sole album during their brief existence from 1968-72 but this nine member band that stylistically stumped the critics managed to crank out some mean tunes on the aptly titled AFREAKA! This band was a collection of immigrants who arrived from British Commonwealth countries and landed in 1960s London. Originally a soul band, a trip to Morocco inspired the band to spice up their sound with more ethnic influences as well as funk, rock, jazz and music from the homelands in mother Africa. The result was one of 1970's most psychedelic and freaked out jazz rock albums that took a few cues from the world of progressive rock which was unusual for a group of nine Africans who found themselves on British soil.

The story began with brothers Winston Joseph and Sleepy Jack Joseph arriving in London in the early 60s. Winton took up the guitar and Sleepy the bass. Paddy Corea would also arrive in London around 1963 and took up both the flute and saxophone and by chance all found each other through good old fashioned newspaper ads. The members kept a-coming with organist Ray Rhoden joining next and then came Clarence Brooms Cradle on trombone. The band began as Blue Rivers and the Maroons where they cranked out a mean raw sort of soul that incorporated a gritty ska sound and a more energetic delivery than the average soul band and as time went on they just kept piling on new styles until they blossomed in the bad ass named DEMON FUZZ.

Trombonist Crosdale claims the band's name has two meanings. It can mean either "Devil's children" or "Bad Policemen," and much like this dichotomy of the moniker so too does the music take you into a contrasting sonic field of unlikely fusion candidates for the year 1970. At its root base, DEMON FUZZ never jettisoned the soul of their origins but rather just made it weirder. Keeping with the times that the late 60s London had to offer, the band added an intense dosage of psychedelic organ sounds that firmly connected them to what was going on in the psych and prog underground. AFREAKA! channels the soul with strong African rhythms with traditional congas and European drums belting out strong percussive drives throughout the album's run. The extra touches of a horn section added a whole new dimension of progressive jazz-rock fusion to the recipe and with touches of ska and reggae syncopated beats meant this band stood out even amongst the other funky freaks out there.

Despite the Afro-Latin funk busyness laced with lysergic soul, AFREAKA! is a hypnotic beast with sultry sax and trombones sounding like a Dixieland jazz troupe lost in a psychedelic nightclub that happens to be hosting a Kenyan drum ensemble. While mostly instrumental with lengthy jamming extravaganzas carrying certain tunes such as "Mercy (Variation No.1)" close to the ten minute mark, the vocals of Smokey Adams do find their way into the mix especially on the shorter tracks like "Disillusioned Man" which tames down the instrumental bombast and slinks back to the more soulful days of yore with a slick soul jazz vocal style that keeps the funk and organs in full swing but after the vocals cease, the lions are back out to play and jam on in full funk and soul regalia. The rest of the album however has been said to resemble the combo effect of Fela Kuti, Cymande and Parliament!

As a band of exclusively black musicians in the 1970 UK, the members were clearly aware of the subtle racism even during the height of the love and peace movement that professed to have erased such things. Paddy Corea has recounted the differences between whites and blacks in the music business of the day when blacks were paid half as much yet worked twice as long and for the most part were not taken seriously. These prejudices were the primary factor in the band pursuing a more serious and complex musical style which was intended to change attitudes towards black music in England. This did attract the attention of DJ John Peel whose efforts led to this album becoming reality but despite all the efforts in making DEMON FUZZ stand out in the burgeoning packs of talented musicians, the disagreements of how AFREAKA! turned out led to disagreements and a breakup in 1972.

For all the band's brevity, AFREAKA! has become a cult classic as well as one of the most sampled albums for DJs and hip hop artists and has even received some airplay in select circles. This album was released at the same time as the non-album single "I Put A Spell On You," the 1956 Screamin' Jay Hawkins hit made more famous by Nina Simone. The single was released as a maxi-single with two other non-album tracks "Message To Mankind" and "Fuzz Oriental Blues," all three of which are included on any modern re-issues of AFREAKA! and well worth having since they are all great tracks that keep the funkified Afro-jazz rock juju flowing in full freakery. It's really too bad DEMON FUZZ didn't develop into a longer lasting band since this is an excellent slice of early 70s African led music that transcended any easy categorization. Was it rock? Yep. Funk, yeah that too. Jazz, uh-huh. But also psychedelic, Afro-Latin and dripping with sweet soul!

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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