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Osibisa - Osibisa CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.75 | 74 ratings

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4 stars A short time before I bought my first drum kit, a friend and future teacher told me that if I really wanted to learn how to play percussion I needed to buy the self titled debut by OSIBISA because if I could ever be able to follow such complex rhythms I would be able of anything, so I went to the store and got it, I was really impressed, my friend's words were short to describe what OSIBISA (band and album) was.

While he gave extreme value to the rhythm section (which is unbelievable), I focused more in the music as an integrity, this group of African and Caribbean musicians were doing one of the most exquisite forms of Proto Prog blended with Psychedelia, Reggae and a touch of Jazz, simply I was amazed and delighted.

The album starts with the excellent "Dawn", a song that begins with a narration in English with a very hard Afro Caribbean accent describing the band and announcing that this track is somehow the introduction to the band, album and to a new day, in other words this album and OSIBISA's career starts "early one morning in the heart of Africa."

After a short intro of with tribal percussion instruments plus sounds of birds and animals, the strong and accurate double bass by Spartacus R. and Roy Bedeau joins, being soon followed by a very psychedelic organ, all mixed with shouts in some African dialect and when you believe things can't get better, Wendel Richardson's guitar a la Santana adds the perfect touch, but if this is not enough there's still a wonderful flute semi solo with clear Ian Anderson's influence mixed again with words in that strange dialect. Perfect track, it can't get any better, it got so many changes and flow so easily that it can't get closer to Prog.

"Music for Gong Gong" was released one year before as a single and captured the attention of the world, less complex than the previous track but certainly much more rhythmic. In this case the song sounds as Afro Jazz because of the versatile Sax played by Mark Tontoh, but without getting to far from the psychedelic atmosphere created by the organ. The song ends in a chaotic percussion and whistle "madness". Again very solid.

Now it's time for my favorite track "Ayko Bia", even when seems to be the less Progressive/Psychedelic track (Despite the typical organ playing in a more subtle way in the back) presents a very interesting structure and perfect work of the Rhythm section. The song starts as a tribal ceremony more exactly a contest between two vocalists, the second trying to follow the first one word by word and supported by a male chorus, and after this sort of challenge ends starts the same contrapuntist structure but now between the instruments, again the guitar does a complex solo and turn by turn the bass and trumpet repeat it, only that now instead of a chorus the organ is the one that backups the band, and at the end the drums and African percussion have their turn to enter to the contest.

"Akwaaba" is the most melodic track from this album, but all the weight of the song is carried by the winds who do a spectacular work, I'm sure that if Phil Collins would have listened them would never called the Phoenix Horns to help him in ABACAB (Thanks God he apparently ignored the existence of OSIBISA). Then in the most perfect Santana style the guitar and bass create the same melody and only stop to let the organ do it's part..

"Oranges" is again amazing, because this was the first song I would have listened, probably have swear that we're before a Jazz - Fusion band that incorporates African elements, the change is radical, the winds and piano a la Chick Corea replace the Farfisa organ, only a short guitar semi solo heavily supported by a complex percussion work returns us to the musical reality of the early 70's, but after this we must accept this guys were not only excellent musicians but absolutely versatile.

Until this point of the album I was ready to rate it with 5 stars, but it's the turn of "Phallus C", lets remember that almost 50% of the members of OSIBISA were Caribbean from Grenada, Trinidad & Tobago and Antigua, so they had to include some of their local music, which of course is Reggae, which is not bad at all, but it's so simple and close to mainstream that pales in comparison with the unique and incredibly original material of the rest of the album. Again not bad, with another good guitar solo (maybe too long), sand perfect rhythm section but sincerely sounds out of place.

The album is closed with a totally different song named "Think About the People" with lyrics in English but with strong accent, very revolutionary against the pollution and the reality of Central Africa (something very common in the late 60's and early 70's). The structure is always changing, from violent explosions to incredible organ solos and some softer sections, again if this is not at least Proto Prog, I don't know how to describe it, excellent song.

Now and only because of a good song that breaks the atmosphere I don't feel able to rate OSIBISA with 5 stars so I will stay with one less, this is one of the days I wish Prog Archives had half stars because they don't deserve less than 4.5, but there will be time to give a higher rating when reviewing the better (Yes it's possible) Woyaya.

Anyway, it's an absolutely essential album for those who love early Prog and the fusion of different musical cultures.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 4/5 |


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