There's a lot to like about Ibibio Sound Machine's self-titled debut album. For a start, the eight-piece band is just great: tight, funky seventies grooves jostle with Highlife guitar licks and deep synthy electronica in a soulful gumbo that feels instantly familiar and yet also new and fresh. If they're this good in the confines of the studio, I imagine they could be simply unstoppable live. There's also real diversity in the songwriting, from the brilliantly upbeat 'The Talking Fish' to the earthy slinkiness of 'Got to Move, Got to Get Out' - and I love how West African folk music keeps bubbling up through the mix, perhaps most charmingly of all in the last track, which takes 'Amazing Grace' out to rural Nigeria and gives it an African makeover that will have you smiling from ear to ear.
But what makes this album brilliant rather than merely very good is the sheer quality of Eno Williams' vocals. You can tell from the album's cover photo she's a young lady who means business, and on this album she sings with all the elegance, force, severity and self-possession of a Nigerian Grace Jones. She's a superb focal point for a rock-solid band, and on this showing she could one day become a major solo star in her own right. For now, though, all we can do is revel in the steamy African soul-funk fusion of the mighty Ibibio Sound Machine. Buy with confidence!