Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Rough Guide to Highlife [World Music Network, 2003]
The original Afropop has always been mysteriously difficult to access stateside, so this genre survey, divvied up between Ghana and Nigeria, is your chance to become an informed reissue agitator. Will you get behind Celestine Ukwu? Victor Uwaifo? Not to be confused with Victor Olaiya? How about the legendary Rex Lawson? It wouldn't be a Rough Guide without ringers (Orlando Julius), revivals (Stephen Osita Osadebe), and anachronisms (Joe Mensah synth part I think), but near as I can tell--to compiler Graeme Ewens's credit, many of these artists are familiar only to aficionados--the preponderance comes from the '60s and '70s. In other words, it's both postindependence, which means feeling its kenkey, and not stuck on the swing era, which means livelying up itself. It's more uneven than the revivalist The Highlife Allstars: Sankofa, but sometimes uneven equals eccentric, which is good--hits that got heard because they were different. A-