Writing about music is like dancing about architecture

Thursday, 13 September 2012


 This, unjustly neglected record, is by Glenn Ghanababa Warren. However, it has his father, Guy Warren's fingerprints all over it!
The description on the sleeve perfectly described the music within the grooves:- "Discussed in Africa ... Recorded in Europe ... Mastered in America." So we have a record with a definite African flavour, largely played by Brits and remixed with a light (and sometimes not so light) fashionable disco-influenced style. And when it works its a pure joy!
Released on Ghana's Safari Records in 1980 - what a great record label symbol! Does anyone know if they released any more records?

It seems plausible that a young man would persuade his father to adopt a more modern sound. But I can't help feel that the ever ambitious Guy would have been well aware in 1980, when this record was produced, of the successes of such African musicians as Manu Dibango, Fela Kuti and his old rival Olatunji in the US disco scene. He was certainly aware of the rock band Osibisa as the string arrangements on this record and rhythm guitar were supplied by Kiki Gyan who had played extensively with the band. Furthermore, he must also have been aware of the jazz-funk, jazz-rock movements if for no other reason than the British jazzers on the record were part of these scenes.
Foremost from the British jazz scene on this record was Ian Carr. Carr played with Guy Warren in the sixties on his own records and on Warren's Afro Jazz LP. By 1980 Carr, together with saxophonist Brian Smith and keyboard player Geoff Castle and bassist Billy Kristain had all played together in Carr's jazz-rock-funk outfit Nucleus.
The final elements in the mix are Tom McCarthy and Sharon Shapiro who produced a number of disco records in New York. I think the presence of Michael Benedictus, also as arranger, who would go on to produce Don't Make Me Wait together with Larry Levan as the Peech Boys, must also have helped give this record its dance-floor-friendly flavour.

For a Guy Warren fan such as myself one of the joys of this record is hearing three of the great man's tracks re-recorded. Monkies and Butterflies and Highlife are from Africa Speaks, America Answers (read about it here), while Happy Feeling is, perhaps his most well know track as it was covered by Bert Kaempfert.

Needless to say the playing is exemplary. There is a different feel for each track. The opener, Monkies and Butterflies is a joyous party track with the band chanting and singing over a, sometime shambolic, but always infectious rhythm. Carr provides a great solo.

Next is Eyes of a Fawn which reminds me somewhat of a slightly less tight Brotherhood of Breath - which is a compliment!

The best part of the final track on the first side, Laakpaa, is the second half which consists of nothing more than chanting, singing and basic percussion. Magnetic, hypnotic stuff.

Over on side two we get the full disco treatment. I'd love to hear this in a proper club situation - in fact I'll have to play it sometime! It just builds and builds without a let up as strings, female vocals and even some disco synth stabs are added. Its definitely the most 'modern' track on the LP.

After such a dancefloor killer the last two tracks, both covers of earlier Guy Warren tracks seem somewhat subdued. However, after you have calmed down from Love of Rhythm, both Happy Feeling and High Life have much to offer.

I urge you to track down a copy of this fine record. Although its not super rare, I've seen it in some shockingly bad conditions, so spend a bit of time and track down a decent copy! Good luck