by Mark Anderson
Holy Mother of Kuti – after a 6 year wait you can now own your very own Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra album that you can play whenever your heart desires. I mean, this is huge, like a 16-piece-band playing righteous-African-funk huge.
Sure, the album may be only 4 tracks (there’s a 5th bonus track online) but it clocks in at nearly 30 minutes of body-grooving goodness. It’s impossible not to dance to PAO! In fact, I think you might be super-villain level evil if you don’t like the music of Phoenix’s own Afrobeat Orchestra.
“Oppression Scatter” opens PAO! and sets the true tone of the album: stare down all that seeks to oppress you as you shout and dance in celebration and joy of rebellion. “Can you hear them crying?/Can you hear?/Now you hear them silence/Now you hear…”
With its rhythmic repetition of the chorus, “Come With Us” might just be my favorite song on the album. An anthem for all who seek connection through love, the song’s message is clear: “Peace and blood my family/You’re one of us/It’s the PAO way!”
Following the dynamite instrumental track of trumpeter/conductor Aldy Montufar’s “Push”, PAO ends the album with “Blossom”, an ode to all of us who work long hours, striving for that next dollar just to survive. They remind us that we all need some contentment and happiness in our life, keeping our head, “You got to…/Plant the seed and watch it blossom/Higher!”
Recorded to tape and engineered at Fivethirteen Recording in Tempe and mastered at SAE Mastering in Phoenix, PAO! is a piece of Valley Music history and hopefully just the beginning of Phoenix Afrobeat output. My only complaint is that it isn’t longer!