Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Saturday Single No. 168

Originally posted December 26, 2009:

The day has gotten away from me, what with sleeping in a little, shoveling another bit of snow from the walks, grabbing a quick lunch at a local joint and running a few errands.

But I’m reluctant to let a Saturday go by unnoticed. I’m not sure how many times I’ve left this place blank on a Saturday since I began this blog in early 2007, but I think I can still count them on one hand. Certainly, two hands will suffice; I’m not yet forced to include toes.

So between shoveling and errands, I was rummaging through the “F” section of the LPs, looking for something interesting I’d not yet ripped or posted. I rejected a few ideas – I wasn’t in the mood for either Robben Ford or Firefall – and ended up pulling out a solo album by Mick Fleetwood, founder of and drummer for Fleetwood Mac.

The album is titled The Visitor, and it was recorded in early 1981 in the West African nation of Ghana. Some of the album is rock with backing provided by a mix of western and African musicians (along with a couple of guest artists, including George Harrison). And some of the album is African and African-influenced music, with the African musicians taking the lead and the members of Fleetwood’s band – George Hawkins on bass and Todd Sharp on guitars – and other guests joining in.

I’m not sure how far ahead of the curve toward world music Fleetwood was, given that The Visitor was recorded in 1981. That was eight years before Paul Simon released Graceland, which, it seems to me, was seen as a milestone. Peter Gabriel included Youssou N’dour as a guest vocalist on “In Your Eyes” on his 1986 album, So. And those are just the first two that come to mind as I write off the top of my head. I imagine there were other big-time musicians who explored African culture on their records before Fleetwood did so on The Visitor. But I wonder how many; I do have the sense that – as I said above – Fleetwood was ahead of the curve.

(Note: As a commenter pointed out when this entry was originally posted, there were numerous other pop/rock musicians who explored other musical cultures, including those of Africa, before Fleetwood went to Ghana. Fair enough. As far as Africa alone is concerned, Ginger Baker's 1970 work was mentioned, and - as I said - I imagine there were others. Was Fleetwood ahead of the curve? I dunno. It was a poor choice of words on my part, I guess.)

Having pulled The Visitor from the shelf, I’ll set it in the increasingly large pile of things I plan to rip to mp3s. I think I’ll get to it fairly quickly. In the meantime, here’s a preview: The title track from Fleetwood’s album, sung by the Ghana Folkloric Group, with Fleetwood on drums, Hawkins on piano and Mike Moran on the Prophet 5 synthesizer. It’s “The Visitor,” today’s Saturday Single.

“The Visitor” by Mick Fleetwood & the Ghana Folkloric Group et al.
From The Visitor [1981]

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