Funk is a blend of jazz, blues, gospel, rock’n’roll, soul and reggae. All these elements are there in guitarist Keziah Jones’ music. Born in Nigeria, he has lived in England since he was 8 – his father, a prominent businessman, wanted him to have an academic career; he went on to be a busker and then an acclaimed musician.
The opening of his latest album, Captain Ragged, is almost a manifesto of funk – single Afronewave shows right at the beginning Jones’ distinctive style of guitar playing, inspired by bass slapping. Following Nollywoodoo starts in a hypnotic way and goes on with a hard, edgy rhythm and a compelling sound which is also influenced by Nigerian traditional music Yoruba. Hypothetical is one of the grooviest tracks in the album, while Jones’ silky falsetto in Utopia reminds me of the funkiest Prince. Almost all of the songs flow one into the other just like in most of the records in the 70s, the heyday of funk. Rhythm is the main element. After all, Jones’s first single from debut album Blufunk Is A Fact was appropriately called Rhythm Is Love.
This concept album based on the superhero from which it takes its title, Captain Rugged, is consecrated to contemporary Africa and its contradictions and demystifies western misconceptions from a unique point of view, that of a person who knows both worlds. “I’m telling the epic story of refugees, immigration and exile. I wanted to portray these personalities as particularly rugged and robust: they’re survivors, African superheroes,” declared Jones himself. He reached his ambition. Musically, however, not all of the tracks are equal – some stand out, some appear to be rather tired. Rugged, despite its interesting and at times futuristic soul edge, doesn’t have neither a memorable melody nor an intriguing rhythm. Same for +The Free. Even the lulling psychedelic soul of Laughter sounds a bit boring. However, non-convincing songs are the minority. Crescendos, hand clapping, choruses and (ironic?) burst of optimism in final track, Praise, make for the lack of melodic complexity, as does Jones’ smooth singing.
All in all, we felt the need for an album like this. Honest, sometimes satirical and committed.