A Nigerian-born rocker heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix and Fela Kuti, Keziah Jones gained popularity in England and France with singles like "Rhythm Is Love" and "Beautiful Emile." Jones was sent to a boarding school in London when he was eight, and he started busking in the London Underground when he was in his teens. He gigged up a storm in Covent Garden and Portobello Road, which led to his discovery by manager Phil Pickett. One bassist (Phil "Soul" Sewell), one drummer (Richie Stevens), and many gigs later, Jones found himself with his first album, Blufunk Is a Fact!, in 1992. Several more albums ensued over the next 15 years (African Space Craft, Liquid Sunshine, and Black Orpheus among them), fixing Jones as one of the more prominent blues-rock musicians on the European music scene in the late '90s and early 2000s. He bolstered this reputation with the release of the album Black Orpheus in 2003 and a first best-of collection, Rhythm Is Love, in 2004. His biggest album to date, Nigerian Wood, was released in 2008. The album spent an incredible 43 weeks on the French SNEP chart and established Jones as a leading figure of the European blues genre. Jones' sixth studio album, Captain Rugged, followed in 2013. He returned with the Rugged Covers EP in 2017. ~ Margaret Reges
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R&B - Released January 1, 1992 | Because Music
Blufunk Is a Fact! might qualify as a best of genre purely because Keziah Jones is pretty much a one-person genre who demolishes any preconceptions of what kind of music he might play. Jones is originally from Nigeria, but he's a young singer/songwriter who plays guitar and there are no obvious traces of African music in the material. The lineup of guitar, bass, and drums hints at a power trio with solos, but he plays rhythm almost exclusively and the extremely tight, kinetic rhythm section makes the music sound a bit like Tower of Power without horns. But the songs are way too idiosyncratic to fit any modern R&B/funk formulas -- so are song titles like "Frinigro Interstellar," "A Curious Kinda Subconscious," and "Walkin' Naked Thru' a Bluebell Field." His melodies obey their own rules, taking off from the rhythm of his spiky guitar licks like a bluesman, but it sure ain't blues. Even the songs that follow more straightforward models sound unorthodox -- "Runaway" lets the rhythm section power things over very spare guitar, and it's Soul's prominent bass, played high so it serves as second melodic instrument (thumb-popped or not), that carries the melodic and solo load on "Where's Life." "Bluebell Field" is James Brown funky with horn section interjections and the spare, choppy funk of "Rhythm Is Love" sets up a great chorus -- "I'd like to put you in such a romance/Take you down to Paris, France/Leave the cafes and the bars/Walk the wintry boulevards." When he's not being overtly sexual à la Prince or PJ Harvey, Jones riffs on lyrics in almost a private language: "The funderlying undermentals of blufunk/Hang your ass out on the bassline/To get the funderlying undermentals of punk funk/You gotta kiss your reasons, man, you're doing fine." OK, dude, if you say so. Although only "Bluebell Field" and "Rhythm of Love" have the kind of chorus hooks that stick in your singalong mind, the intriguing power and uniqueness of Keziah Jones' music on Blufunk Is a Fact! is undeniable. ~ Don Snowden
R&B - Released May 10, 1999 | Because Music
If Keziah Jones' first two albums were very distinct but consistent within themselves, Liquid Sunshine sounds more disjointed and lacks that internal unity. It's still idiosyncratic, but in a different way -- not a bad capsule description of Keziah Jones as an artist -- and may be a transitional effort, with the mood and style changing abruptly from song to song. The opener, "Hello Heavenly," immediately sets the moodier, sparer tone -- there's far less frenetic rhythm strumming and stings pop up prominently as a melodic blanket on four songs. There's a fair amount of scatted vocals which show how Jones fashions his melodies from sound first. The dreamy "Don't Forget" segues into "Phased," which almost has a "Pictures of Matchstick Men" '60s psychedelic rock feel with strings, while "I'm Known" is uncharacteristically very simple and direct. The title track has up-tempo parts powered by driving drums that suddenly shift to unaccompanied sections, while the acoustic guitar thrust of "New Brighter Day" boasts some of that old-chopping funk rhythmic complexity. "Functional," with Jones singing over only his own bass, really recalls the early style, and "Stabilah" sounds like a field-holler Afro-blues with handclaps and background moans behind Jones' guitar riff. Liquid Sunshine is either a more thought-out disc or somewhat incomplete in the sense of material that hasn't been lived with long enough to develop a coherent sound and/or direction. There are some strong individual songs, but the whole fails to measure up to previous efforts by Keziah Jones. ~ Don Snowden
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