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Album Review

T.P. Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo ?The Kings of Benin: Urban Groove 1972-80? [Soundway Records] (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   7/24/2005   12-inch, International

This album is a compilation of songs from the prolific but obscure West African band T.P. Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo. They have been going strong for over 40 years putting out over 50 LPs and 100 45s, but this release focuses on the years 1972-1980. Some notes on their name(s): The T.P. stands for tout puissant, or all-powerful in English. You can find them filed under various suffixes as de Cotonou Benin (pronounced be-NIN or be-NEEN), de Cotonou Dahomey (the colonial name for Benin), or just de Cotonou (the capital of Benin).

The 13 tracks on this release cover a wide range of styles, combining Afro-beat with Latin, Soul, Psychedelic, and Funk influences. The rhythm (or rhythms) of most songs is complex but generally comes down on the 1, making the music instantly accessible. Once the band settles into a groove the horns punctuate it, guitars noodle and jam with it, and vocals (in French, I think) shout into it.

It’s music for when the air-conditioning in the Master studio is busted. Perfect for summer!

If you liked the Love’s A Real Thing collection (International/CD) added a few months ago (these guys did the title track), you will certainly like this album. Drop the needle anywhere and funk out.
–Hunter Gatherer

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