The 1980s, when these classic recordings of Ghana’s highlife music were made, were not the genre’s golden age. That came earlier. But it was an auspicious time when classic acts like the Black Beats and F. Kenya’s Guitar Band were still in action, and there was the technology to record them fairly well. That alone makes this collection a must-have for anyone interested in older African pop.
F. Kenya’s group boogies hard with tangling guitar lines and slicing, clear vocals on three standout tracks here, including "Memia" (I’m Too Broke)." Eddie Ansah’s light, airy vocals and chiming, percolating band bring to mind a very different sound — that of early King Sunny Adé’s juju music. The Bokoor Band’s "Yaka Duru" has a slightly Latin flavor, edging toward the lilt of rumba. And two tracks by a studio band called the Happy Boys deliver tight, pumping guitar pop reminiscent of Zimbabwean jit music. Most important, this set offers a delightful and fascinating document of Ghana’s pop music before it was overrun by reggae, Christian gospel, and hip-hop.