Rocket Juice and the Moon 4/5 This week, legendary Nigerian drummer Tony Allen flies in to play Dubai’s Chill Out Festival. He’s the man known as the ‘godfather of Afrobeat’, the leader of Fela Kuti’s genre-defining Africa 70 outfit during their ’70s heyday (Kuti later recruited four drummers, playing simultaneously, to replace him).
A restless spirit, this new record puts the 71-year-old in rather less familiar surroundings: alongside Damon Albarn and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea. Recorded in three weeks, it’s a loose affair, with Albarn (mostly behind his keyboard) being the enabler, not the star. Flea’s melodically rich bass-playing and Allen’s twitchy funk drumming are the undoubted scene-stealers here. They gel thrillingly with a steely focus during songs like ‘Lolo’, each tiny nuance making their slink totally absorbing and the project far more than the sum of their biogs.
Over the West African riffage, vocal guests Erykah Badu, Fatoumata Diawara and Manifest add to the party, while keyboard ace Cheick Tidiane Seck taps into the incredible swirl of William Onyeabor’s back catalogue. And what about Damon? He only contributes one vocal, but it’s the quietly beautiful ‘Poison’ – more than a match for Blur weepies such as ‘For Tomorrow’ or ‘Best Days’.