Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

King Sunny Ade: The Best of the Classic Years [Shanachie, 2003]
I wonder if the guys who complained Sunny was one of them media hypes are still listening to their Dream Syndicate albums. Maybe they are, the saps. But two decades on the truth is clearly the opposite--though now slightly diminished, he was a titan, one of the great pop musicians of the 20th century. This first stateside attempt to cherry-pick his vinyl outpouring--Ade himself has compiled CDs for his Masterdisc label--mines 1967-74, well before he crowned himself juju king, and although I own many of his African LPs, I'd never heard a cut on it. It's less tuneful than my old favorite The Message and doesn't flow as smoothly as the '80s stuff Chris Blackwell tried to naturalize into the new reggae. Yet thanks in part to ace compiler Randall Grass, it's magnificent through and through: so polymorphous that themes trade off with variations, so light that its guitars seem barely touched by rock sonorities, so percussive that only Nigerians can dance to it. Sweeping a big, ethnically divided country, juju was one of the headiest pop crazes anywhere ever. It was also mother's milk. A+