Lafayette Afro-Rock Band: Darkest Light: The Best Of review (Blurt)

Formed on Long Island, matured in the Barbés district of Paris, and possessed of an amorphous, pan-African funk vibe, the Lafayette Afro-Rock Band was a quintessential faux-world music group. Both completely inauthentic and totally natural, Lafayette had less in common with Fela than with the post-exotica movement of London studio creations like Mandingo or the many anonymous Italians creating funky for-hire library music in the ’60s.

There’s a certain imitative stiffness to the group’s music, which doesn’t make for the funkiest experience, but as any experienced crate-digger will attest, it does make for some mighty fine sampling. Accordingly, the majority of songs on this collection of LARB’s early ’70s material (both under their main banner and under several different names as well) will sound instantly familiar, due to the recognition of a horn line or drum break from any number of hip-hop songs. Unfortunately, only a handful of Lafayette’s songs hold up as standalone jams; the ultra-greasy “Soul Frankenstein” (recorded under the name Captain Dax) and the culturally overextended horns-and-djembe groove of “Heels & Soles” are both fantastic, while a cover of “Soul Makossa” turns Manu Dibango’s classic into a grinding bit of homage.

Most of the rest of the material here is pleasant and faintly evocative of prime Afro-funk, but don’t mistake it for the real thing.

Standout Tracks: “Soul Frankenstein,” “Heels & Soles”

First appeared Feb. 27, 2009 at Blurt.

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