Regular readers of FLY Global Music will be well aware of both Tony ‘Lagos No Shaking‘ Allen who gets time off from his collaborations with Damon Alban to get to work with the ever diverse Jimi Tenor (who started at WARP, moved onto the project with Kabu Kabu as well a producing the retro-favoured soul of his wife, Nicole Willis (and the Soul Investigators) on Keep Reachin’ Up). So can you imagine them producing anything less than a superb album that’s as dancefloor friendly as challenging? No I can’t either and they have.
From the very start of ‘Against The Wall’ to the last of the monster ‘Three Continents’ these guys are hot. Doin’ dancehall ‘Against The Wall’ with funky cosmic tight pants on deserves a longer version but all these tracks should be 13 minutes 51 seconds long. ‘Sinuhe’ is nothing but Afro-beat that’s roots in the sixties (a period Tenor has absolutely absorbed into his body) but that sounds fresh as next Sunday morning.
If Strut were looking for confirmation that the Tenor/Allen project was a good idea, they could have stopped with ‘Against The Wall’ and ‘Sinuhe’ and said, “I told you so”. But thankfully, they didn’t and you’ll find that ‘Selfish Gene’ has a killer clever lyric that leads to the ‘Path To Wisdom’. This is one of many that inevitably owes much to the spirit of Sun Ra and Fela (what a dream team) and throwing is some Blaxploitation jive talk; blow your horn Jimi.
Talking of Fela and exploitation, ‘Mama England’ has the political message and sexual imagery of the master with the (multi-talented) Tenor picking up the flute this time for a short solo. As he does again on ‘Darker Side Of Night’ that throws in some 60s TV theme shades before a trumpet and bass lead blast off/break down dub out.
And the Afro-beat comes to the fore on the last three tracks making this an even more essential album; and whilst it’s a tough one, ‘Got My Egusi’ is my favourite of the set for “now is the time for you to get up and dance” feet, ‘Cella’s Walk’ for the space-jazz mixtape and the 13 minutes 51 seconds climax of ‘Three Continents’ for endurance (think of an Afro-beat version of Nguy?™n L?™’s Saiyuki mixed with the condensed elements of the other eight tracks on the album).
With each Inspiration Information being better than the last (and I didn’t think that would be the case after the Mulatu/Heliocentrics album) and to my mind, this album is better than both Allen’s last outing (Secret Agent) and Tenor’s collabs with Kabu Kabu on 4th Dimension or the previous Joystone which is saying something, this one is challenging a certain Space for album of the year!
So whilst it would be against the spirit of Inspiration Information for there to be a Part 2 (we can always live in hope), Tenor and Allen have set the benchmark that’s close to perfection.
Reviewed: Jimi Tenor / Tony Allen – Inspiration Information (Strut) Cat. No. STRUT043CD Release date: 2nd November 2009
1. Against The Wall (4:37)
2. Sinuhe (6:11)
3. Selfish Gene (3:47)
4. Path To Wisdom (5:58)
5. Darker Side Of Night (6:54)
6. Mama England (5:09)
7. Got My Egusi (7:58)
8. Cella’s Walk (5:16)
9. Three Continents (13:51)
Various – Warp20 (Box Set) “with Gavenhurst, Tim Exile and Jimi Tenor holding heads high amongst the bleeps” WS, BUZZ Hyd/Oct09