Known as ‘The Golden Voice of Africa’, highlife singer Pat Thomas rose to fame in his native Ghana in the genre’s 70’s/80’s peak, having recently found a new audience in Europe through the highlife resurgence of the past few years. One of the labels at the heart of bringing the style to wider attention for Western audiences has been Strut Records, and so it is suitably the UK imprint that delivers us Thomas’ latest album, one that celebrates his involvement in making music for over fifty years now.
From hitting play the album immediately hits you with the classic warmth and sweet vocal lines associated with the genre; indeed the opener ‘Mewo Akoma’, all calypso flavours and punchy brass, is one of the highlights. The song is one of a handful of re-imagined Thomas compositions from the past that have been brought up to date in a way that’s sensitive to the classic sound he’s trying to achieve, the others including ‘Odo Adada’ and ‘Gyae Su’. The latter is another highlight with its bouncy bass line and earworm chorus, showing off Thomas’ ability to craft some of the finest highlife songs around.
The Kwashibu Area Band (including Ebo Taylor amongst others) provide the perfect backing for Thomas’ vocal talents to shine, be that with the shuffling rhythms and catchy horn riff of ‘Odoo Be Ba’, or the sunny vocal harmonies on ‘Brebrebre’. Afrobeat legend Tony Allen also contributes drums to a handful of songs, with his influence being particularly obvious on closer ‘Amaehu’. Here, stuttering drums and some funky organ work make the track lean more towards classic afrobeat than the highlife sounds that dominate most of the album,, however Thomas sounds equally comfortable with the style, testament to the depth of his experience and talent.
Lovingly produced and consistent throughout in its quality, this album would serve as an excellent introduction to the world of highlife for the uninitiated or as a great addition to the record collections of existing Pat Thomas fans. Complete with great artwork and with a string of remixes apparently to follow, Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band shows a true musical great still on top form.
You can purchase the album now on iTunes, and watch a video on the studio sessions below: