Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Fela Anikulapo Kuti: The Best Best of Fela Kuti [MCA, 2000]
There is one true Fela experience, and that experience is long. L-o-n-g. Unless qawwali counts, no one in pop has ever gone on so unceasingly for so long. Even Phish and such mix in song-type fragments to give folks a rest. Fela's practice was to release 30-minute albums with two cuts on them, or to dispense with this formality and designate the sides parts one and two. As a result, this 158-minute double-CD comprises all of 13 titles. But of these, more than half are edited or cut unceremoniously in half, which is great, because long can wear out fast. Most Fela albums, including the 20 MCA has arrayed across an overdue reissue blitz of 10 CDs that pass by such renowned releases as Zombie, Black President, and Army Arrangement, are listenable enough. Few, however, are the knockout punches his notices lead thrill seekers to expect--their attractions are more unfocused than an artist so militant requires. Here that's not a problem. Long though they still are, all are marked by top-notch tirades, explosive horn blasts, riffs he'll never improve no matter how often he tries. Certainly some original albums are of a quality that renders the usual duplication caveats moot. But this is the one you need, a masterful piece of compilation for an artist who deserves the best. A