Blo “Chapter One”

Chapter One

Blo (based out of Lagos) grew out of the Clusters, a popular late 60s group who made ends meet by covering Beatles and Stones tunes.  Before long people began refering to the Clusters as the “Nigerian Beatles” but the group also soaked up the sounds of Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, and local hero Fela Kuti.  To make a long story short things did not work out for the Clusters who included future Blo members Akintobi and guitarist/songwriter Berkley Jones.  In 1972 Blo made their Christmas debut at Lagos City Stadium and by all accounts blew supporting act Osibisa off stage.   Lagos City Stadium housed 10,000 vistors strong, all who were chanting “we want Blo” that day – a trio they had never seen before!

Press reports began describing Blo as Africa’s first real rock band. Following the explosive live performance at Lagos City EMI issued Chapter One in the summer of 73.  At the time nothing sounded quite like it.   The album is an extraordinary mixture of funky James Brown beats and spacey psychedelic guitar jams (check out the superb instrumental “Miss Sagitt”).    Album opener “Preacherman” combines both these styles into something really far out and classic.  The spiraling acid guitar solos and shuffling drum work really stand out on this cut. Brilliant.  Every song is worth listening to multiple times but I’ll single out all 6 minutes of “Don’t” for it’s hazy, hypnotic vibe that’s similiar to early Can.

Sadly, Blo never really broke out of Nigeria despite having the look, superior chops, and an excellent batch of songs.

edit: Chapter One is now available on CD through Mr. Bongo (with a vinyl edition due by the end of this month). They’ve also posted the full album as a video playlist here.

mp3: Preacherman

:D CD Reissue | 2013 | Mr Bongo | buy here ]
:) Vinyl Reissue | 2013 | Mr Bongo | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

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  • Brendan

    Strange coincidence you should post a band from Lagos today, as I just went to see the new Fela! Broadway musical last night. It was amazing to imagine you were really watching Fela at the Shrine, but it failed to really take me away… a little too much “Broadway” got into the mix.

  • Len Liechti

    Something a bit different for TRS, I must say, and very welcome. I have a weakness for African guitarists from the eighties onwards, because they really discovered a different way to make sounds with electric guitars that owes no baggage to the blues or any other western style. African guitarists simply s-p-a-r-k-l-e when they start hitting those riffs. Investigate any of the soukous coming out of Zaire or Senegal, for example, if you will. Oh, and I do have a soft spot for Osibisa even if they’re not really an African band. I saw them live at Bath University in 1973 when THEY blew Curved Air offstage.

  • mark

    Well… finally I fell under the spell of BLO… spinning now: “Chapters and Phases” – the first two albums (’73 and ’75)… I am caught in their intricate web of tones and textures… the drumming is indeed hypnotic and the guitar work is subtle! I read in the liner notes that they toured with Salt – a Ginger Baker (pre-Airforce) ensemble… no recordings seem top exist however. I am not sure why they returned to Nigeria when Europe seemed open to their magic. You singled out “Don’t”, but the entire album is filled with a rich fusion that is at once psychedelic and grounded in the vernacular of African tradition and, no doubt, the dark, dynamic, blue-smokey club scene of Lagos – filled with rhythmic bodies in trance. Thanks for the lead… I enjoy the sense of discovery as I pick up and follow the threads that you continue to offer. (hopefully, I will not find a Minotaur at the end…!) ciao!

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