From the crazy stream of reissues that keep flowing by every week, you'd think there must be an enormous number of reissue outfits working around the clock. But the community of people behind the legitimate archival projects who have managed to remain in business is actually quite small. Every so often, an odd coincidence will arise to underscore that fact. Until just recently, it was rare to come across a collection of West African music that wasn't focused on Afrobeat, yet in just the last month or so, three highlife collections from different labels have suddenly appeared, each featuring tracks by guitar ace Sir Victor Uwaifo, strangely enough.
For those seeking a one-stop introduction to the highlife form as it developed in Nigeria and Ghana during the 60s and early 70s, Vampi Soul's (vampisoul.com) two-disc Highlife Time package provides an excellent historical overview, while anyone after a broader range of West African rhythmic innovation to get some perspective on where highlife fits in should check out Strut's Nigeria 70: Lagos Jump CD (strut-records.com/nigeria70). To get a better handle on what was going on with Uwaifo, Soundway's Guitar-Boy Superstar (soundwayrecords.com) serves as a convenient single-disc retrospective of his peak years, 1970-76, nicely annotated with sweet-ass promo photos and sick sleeve art.
Kirikisi by Sir Victor Uwaifo
Yabis by Sir Shina Peters & His International Stars
Releasing a collection of obscure recordings didn't always require an elaborate backstory and a team of contract and copyright lawyers. There was a time when all it took was a stack of cool 45s that no one else had and the audacity to compile them regardless of who owned the rights.
The action-packed Twistin' Rumble series favourably recalls classic compilations of the past like Las Vegas Grind, Frolic Diner and Sin Alley where sleazy R&B rubs up against reckless rockabilly, filthy blues grinds and frenzied blasts of honking hophead jazz that should come with a parental-advisory sticker. There's good news for the turntable-bereft: the Twistin' Rumble LPs are doubled up on salacious CD volumes for your lease-breaking party pleasure.
Where's My Pussycat by Terrr & The Topics
The Wax Poetics label - started up as an offshoot of the beat junkies' bible of the same name - continues its cautious foray into the reissue market with the release of another sought-after obscurity, the Rhythm And Blues album by Stockholm-based percussionist Melvyn Price. The title is a bit misleading as it's actually a Latin jazz set, and the conga-slapping Price gets upstaged on his own session by hired tenor saxophonist Ed Epstein and pianist Bjorn Wolff, both of whom freely cut loose as if they were playing an open jam. No complaints here, although Price seems to have gotten much more than he bargained for in sideman support. waxpoetics.com.
Behind Kungstradgarden by Melvin Price