When you think about African music, you usually think of rhythm before anything. But the Green Arrows and the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band, two of the biggest bands in Zimbabwe during the 1970s, were as much about guitar as drums. Four-Track Recording Session, in particular, is practically a garage-rock album. Lead guitarist Stanley Manatsa cuts loose with stinging, fuzzed-out lines, as his bassist/vocalist brother Zexie fronts the group. Granted, there’s a lot of typically African lilt to this music, but that only makes the roaring leads and songs in tribute to Steve McQueen (“No Delay”) and Paul Newman (“Towering Inferno”) stand out that much more. This is a crucial, lovingly assembled look back at one of the more fascinating and somewhat forgotten (in the West, anyway) groups in African history.
Zexie Manatsa was such a huge star in Zimbabwe in the 1970s that his 1979 wedding took place Sly Stone style, in a stadium packed with 60,000 fans, as well as musicians like Oliver Mtukudzi and Thomas Mapfumo. Mapfumo, for his part, was a member of the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band in the mid-70s, and appears on quite a few of the tracks on Take One. There’s a lot of really excellent guitar playing on this disc, too, by Joshua Dube, who’s credited as pioneering the staccato style that now dominates Zimbabwean music. Almost all these songs are thoroughly addictive, the analog production and consequent slight distortion only making it more appealing, like a radio broadcast from a long-lost planet. The deeper one digs into the history of 1960s and 1970s African music, before it was really under the world spotlight, the more fascinating it becomes. These two CDs are a treasure trove of melody, rhythm and most importantly rock.