Peter King – Miliki Sound
(Mr Bongo Records MRBLP103. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)
Some necessary disambiguation: this particular Peter King is the stellar Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, who plays much more than the saxophone. And Miliki Sound is the second album by him to be reissued as part of Mr Bongo’s laudable “Classic African Recordings” project. The first one, Shango, can be found reviewed here.
Recorded a year after Shango, in 1975, Miliki Sound represents the beginning of a dazzlingly prolific period for King — he’d record another eight albums in the next three years. And if they’re all as good as this you should set aside a section of your record shelf to accommodate them.
Originally released on Sonny Roberts Orbitone label, Miliki Sound is a hybrid of Afro-Jazz, High Life and African root music. It was produced by Roberts and features Eddie Tantan on trumpet, Dudu Pukwana on alto sax and Mfon Idem on tenor sax. Peter King himself also features on tenor, not to mention singing, playing the flute (as beautifully displayed on Jo Jolo), soprano sax, piano, percussion, and more.
Indeed, on Boleya Koya King even proves adroit on the violin. This number has a flavour of Cajun dance music as well as township jive and even a hint of James ‘Blood’ Ulmer. It is shuffling and insistent, beguiling and captivating. Having demonstrated his ability on strings at the beginning of this tune Pete King comes weaving in again on tenor saxophone at the end, shining against the solid, unified backdrop provided by Tantan, Pukwana and Idem.
Compared to Shango there is a more of an emphasis here on catchy, danceable tunes. The playful joyous lightness of Iya La Jole, for instance, carries us into the musical territory which would eventually sell millions of records when explored by Paul Simon. On the other hand, on Elelzy King’s violin once again conjures up a premonition of James Ulmer — specifically the Ulmer album Odyssey which featured the fiddling prowess of James Burnham.
The record as a whole is a tightly packed box of musical tricks and treats, packing in many a surprise. Memorably described on the liner notes as a ‘Sweet Afro Casserole’ the music on offer is wide ranging but always presents a direct emotional appeal.
The mood throughout this album is perhaps lighter than on the formidable Shango, so if you’re intrigued by Peter King this might be the ideal entry point to his recordings. You don’t necessarily have to chose between the two albums, though, as Mr Bongo is offering a bundle of the two on vinyl at a very advantageous price.
As with the other Classic African Recording LPs, Miliki Sound is offered on lightweight but high quality vinyl and the sound is excellent: noise-free, deep and dynamic.
The record is a faithful replica of the original, right down to attractive yellow and silver Orbitone label. There is one area where it might have been a good idea to be a bit less faithful and more practical, though. The sleeve has absolutely no printing on the spine, presumably to maintain fidelity to the 1975 release. So if this record gets misfiled, good luck ever finding it again.
Perhaps the solution is simply never to take it off your turntable.
Miliki Sound is also available on CD if you’re into those digital sorts of things.