Orchestre Poly-Rythmo ‘Cotonou Club’ 2LP/CD/DIG (Strut) 4/5

This is definitely a trip down memory lane with a super 70s retro Afro-funk feel permeating the entire album, though it is in fact a brand new recording. A storming opener in ‘Ne te fâches pas’ (’Don’t get angry’) starts proceedings off on the right footing (albeit one with a large James Brown imprint) and there is delicate rhythm guitar work that reminds one of Ghanaian highlife. West African grooves surface also on the excellent ‘Pardon’, which could just as easily be from a Nigerian band. With its driving bass, repetitive riff and chorus, the mid-tempo number ‘Von vo viono’ is a terrific slice of 70s Afro-funk. However, it would be wrong to portray the Orchestra as merely Fela disciples. In fact there is a good deal more variety and even subtlety in other songs. This is illustrated by the gentle paced intro to ‘Ma vie’ which builds up into something one might have expected to have originated from Zimbabwe, or South Africa. Latin vibes predominate on ‘Koumi dede’ with its incessant piano vamps underneath a basic Afro-funk structure. This has the potential to be a dance floor smash. Guest vocalist Angélique Kidjo alternates on lead vocals on the rapid and ultra funky ‘Gbeti madjro’ while Fatoumata Diawara contributes vocals on the brassy hues of ‘Mariage ou c’est lui’. Even Franz Ferdinand gets a look in on ‘Lion is burning’. All in all a great return to form and one looks forward immensely to the forthcoming tour.

Tim Stenhouse