I didn't have great expectations of this album when I initially ordered it, given that there are a fair few albums focused on West African music from the seventies and they are of distinctly varying quality, in my experience. Fortunately on its arrival I was pleasantly surprised to find a double album that was beautifully put together in terms of packaging and one of the most interesting and informative accompanying booklets I have seen for a while. The music was pretty good too.
Essentially this is a compilation of rare tracks that the compiler felt were worth trying to bring to a wider audience. Predominantly it explores the highlife scene of early 1970's Nigeria but without being exclusive. Furthermore, thanks to the excellent sleeve notes, it puts it all into its linguistic and cultural context.
There are some really brilliant individual tracks on here as well. In the vein of deep Afro-rock grooves, Mono-Mono's "Ema Kowa Iasa Ile Wa" is a real winner, as is the Don Isaac Ezequiel Combination's "Amalinja" and "Asiko Ni Mi" by the Nigerian Police Force Band. "Akula Owu Onyeara" by the Funkee's deserves to be a funk classic and "Okwukwe Na Nchekwube" by Celestine Ukwu and His Philosophers National is a wonderful demonstration of what Highlife music, as Nigerian pop, can really be all about.
This is obviously not an album that will appeal to everyone, and as with any compilation there are some tracks that will remain in the memory longer than others, but this is a record of real charm and intelligence which brings to life an interesting musical scene without over-indulging on one or two artists who have achieved more success.