Dec 8, 2010
The Psychedelic Aliens - Psycho African Beat
Thanx to VOODOOFUNK for this great record!!!
Information and reviews
Like most stories involving aliens this one seems, well, made up. For a few years in the late 60's to early 70's worlds collided and aliens walked among us. And made music. Psycho African Beat is the complete recorded output of this amazing group and their unprecedented music that combined elements of American soul, funk, garage rock and psych with African rhythms and melodies. This magical moment lasted for 3 short years producing only 3 releases: 1 - 4 song EP + 2 - 7"s. Today, these 3 original releases are the most sought after and most elusive African funk records. It took Frank Gossner (Voodoofunk.com, Soulpusher, DJ Franco) 4 years, 9 visits to Ghana, and dozens of newspaper ads and radio announcements to track them down.
The mid to late 60s was a time of renewal in Ghana. They had already Radio Ghana run by the government where people could request songs. And then we had many student pop bands influenced by British pop and psych, next to the circuit of local music or Highlife bands. This included hotel resident bands, a bands for the army, for the police force and for the workers' brigade. All bands learned to play on cheap equipment. Only during the performances they could borrow decent equipment. Bands were still associated with caution at first because night-life was still associated with drinking, pot or womanising. The Aliens were formed in 1968 at the weekend club of the Lebanese community centre. Their name was chosen appropriately for it included members of mixed heritage of Ghanian with Lebanese/Indian or French natives. Having started with mixed style covers, their own songs were so much appreciated, they built up a repertoire and reputation with which they got gigs at many clubs, often paired with a popular Highlife band. They also shared stage with Geraldo Pino's The Heartbeats, a band under influence of James Brown. After a while they were able to buy their own equipment which included a Vox Continental organ for which they were able to purchase additional wah-wah and fuzz pedals. Under the influence of the first Hendrix album the band developed their style to something more psychedelic, thus changing their name to “The psychedelic Aliens”. A growing success led to a three month tour in Nigeria meeting Fela occasionally and jamming with him at the hotel, developing further their ideas with him. After that they were able to record this on a Polydor EP. The band continued to improve their experiences through similar experiences which resulted in two more EPs.
The first track has an R&B influence with beautiful moody organ use, pushed by electric bass and drums. This was indeed a mixed style of a western psych blues instrumental with a still recognisable Afro vision (their first EP was subtitles “Psycho African beat”). “Hijacking” uses the beautiful sound of the organ, slowly penetrating, the guitars show a slight funky touch and wah-wah effects, grooving with a smooth bluesy vibe. “We're laughing” uses even more wah-wah, the first song of the EP. A mixture of Brown funk with psychedelic associations and some repetitive band. The band surely knows to groove with this relative simple core of ideas. The influence of Hendrix mixed with a far soul-funk background of James Brown can be noticed very clearly on their second single on “Gbe Keke Wo Taoc”, in the singing approach, electric bass and electric guitar. On the next track the organ returns rhythmically, the singing is more African, shouting and responding, the electric guitar solos are definitely psychedelic. The song has interesting evolution in accents on the rhythms, and loudness of certain instruments or vocals. “Homowo” is afro-funk with psychedelic associations. The band clearly developed their sound musically compared to the already great first EP. The song rhythmic tensions from this period changes a lot during a short time. The drumming in this part shows also a very attractive poly-rhythmic complexity. Also the last track is a high qualitative groovy afro-psych instrumental. Highly recommended. One of the fairest proofs there has been great psychedelic music in Africa.
Maybe the recent reissues by Zambians Witch and Amanaz have set you to wondering what the rest of African rock sounds like; maybe you want something more, something better? Now someone’s found a long-lost band that, judging from the record sleeve, would look just right tucked between Hasil Adkins and Esquerita in a Norton catalog, and was called The Psychedelic Aliens to boot. It’s almost too good to be true.
The broad outline of the Aliens’ (more on that name in a minute) story could apply to half the bands on those Pebbles compilations; some young guys get hold of some instruments and a family member’s VW bus, cut their teeth at some clubs and hotels around town, hit the road, play with some big famous stars, put out a few singles that sound great but don’t break them into the big time, lose a couple members to college, fall into disarray and break up. The hot organ sound and distorted guitars could certainly earn a few of those songs a place on some garage-rock comp. But the band members came from Accra, Ghana, and they had to trade up with foreigners passing through town to get their hands on worthwhile gear in a country where musical instruments were classified as luxury items subject to a 300 percent surcharge. The stars they hung with included Fela Kuti, Santana and Wilson Pickett.
Three of them had non-Ghanaian parents, and it was that mix of Indian, Lebanese and French heritage that inspired them to name themselves The Aliens. They started out in 1968 playing a mix of highlife and Western pop; one singer handled the English vocals, another sang in French. Over time they acquired a Vox Continental organ, some fuzz pedals, and a copy of Are You Experienced?, all of which pushed their sound closer to rock. A paired-down portion of the band recorded its first EP in 1970 during an extended run in Nigeria, so rather than use its regular name, the band released it under a nickname given them by fans. Those first four songs don’t sound particularly psychedelic, but they’re pretty hot; “Hijacking” could be the work of a rougher Booker T. & the M.G.s, while “Extraordinary Woman” sounds a little like Hendrix, if he’d gone with R&B instead of those newfangled freak-outs and covered “Walkin’ The Dog.”
The other two singles were recorded the next year, after the Aliens had started playing with a light show that instigated a name change to the Magic Aliens. Jamming with Fela and sharing a stage with Santana had encouraged them to pick up the tempos and harden their attack, but hearing a band from the U.S. do its best to sound African had changed them in another way. They no longer felt like imitating anybody. Only one song from the first recording was sung in an indigenous language; none of the songs recorded the second time around are in English. The hand drums are louder in the mix, the grooves more akin to sped-up Afrobeat than rock ‘n’ roll. But the woozy guitar lick that kicks off “Okponmoni Ni Titsi Emo Le” is still audibly beholden to Hendrix, and if anything, the later tunes rock even harder.
It’s a sound that would have been well worth exploring, and it’s a shame that the Aliens didn’t last long after the departure of guitarist Carl Telfer and organist Malek Crayem later in 1971. But what could be more rock ‘n’ roll than a band that burned out rather than faded away?
By Bill Meyer
The name says it all. Psycho African Beat, the compilation out October 26th on Academy Records, is an unabashedly in-your-face collection of jams that are about as funky as anything you're likely to come across. The Psychedelic Aliens are a 1970's Ghanaian Psych-Soul band that had virtually fallen into obscurity. Academy Records and Frank Voodoo Funk Gossner kept that from happening by scouring crates in different corners of the globe for bits and pieces of their music in hopes of releasing this compilation.
Their efforts have paid off. Frank Gossner has once again completed his mission of reviving forgotten funky music from West Africa, and this could be one of the funkiest projects he's ever undertaken. The Psychedelic Aliens combine elements from several of the American musical genres that made their way back across the Atlantic--soul, fuzz rock, and psychedelic funk. Listening to this album almost makes me wonder what Funkadelic's first album might sound like if it was recorded in Accra.
While this album could start a great conversation about cross-cultural exchange in African and African-American musics in the 1970's, most of all, this is downright funky music made for dancing (especially the type of dancing one might find at a 1970's freak out full of Nigerian college students). Put simply, don't listen to this album if you can't handle some serious funk.
A review by the amazing afrobeat blog of Marc Gabriel Amigone!!
The Psychedelic Aliens was the first of a handful of young Ghanaian Afro- Funk bands to record in the 1960’s, soon becoming one the hottest names in the Accra music scene. It soaked up influences from the band member’s experiences performing with some of the great Afro-Beat and Funk musicians of the time like a brand new mop. The band, also called ‘the Magic Aliens’, only recorded 8 songs, but the 8 little drops that dripped out of that mop were enough to make you want to ring out the whole mop and take a jug of the water home to pour into your iPod. The Alien’s bio accurately describes its influences as “Soul, garage rock, funk and psych that was built on African rhythms and melodies.” I’ll drink that funk all day, and you can too when their 8 tracks are released on October 26th by Academy LPS. Check out one little drop of the funky psycho African beat below, a track called Gbe Keke Wo Taoc.
01. Blofonyobi Wo Atale
03. We're Laughing
04. Extraordinary Woman
05. Gbe Keke Wo Taoo
06. Gbomei Adesai
08. Okponmo Ni Tsitsi Emo Le