If you're looking for a gift for the funk aficionado in your life, or just want to hear something great from Africa's wide musical past, check out this retro release from Daptone Records. This fall the New York-based label, on a mission to increase the amount of new and old funky tunes in the universe, put together an epic compilation of the best of a 70's soul legend from Benin, Theophile De Rego, stage name El Rego. Lots of this album channels solid James Brown: there's horn jabs, plenty of funky bass and El Rego bellows and intones in just the same way as his contemporaries in America. On other tracks, you'll swear you're hearing the gospel style of Ray Charles, or the blaring keyboards of the Doors. But El Rego also goes into his own realm on a lot of tracks. The slow march of "Ke Amon-Gbetchea" coupled with his haunting vocals makes for a blues-y final number. What stands out most here is obviously El Rego's incomparable voice, soaring, wavering and grunting with equal force and beauty. Percussion-wise it's all there, from motown drums to cowbells and bongos, all perfectly balanced. Latin rhythms make an appearance too, on "E Nan Mian Nuku" and there's a smattering of smooth guitar virtuosity on "Kpon Fi La." This greatest hits compilation jumps all over the place, but that's kind of a good thing. It's consistent in its tight rhythms and El Rego's powerful voice, making it a soulful African version of a great American tradition.
Here's a free download of the record's single "Hessa."