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In Rotation: Rocket Juice & the Moon's eponymous debut

April 26, 2012 |  3:39 pm

In Rotation: "Rocket Juice & the Moon." A series in Sunday Calendar about what Times writers and contributors are listening to right now...

Rocket Juice & the Moon

Rocket Juice & the Moon, 'S/T' (Honest Jon's)

You’d think that given Damon Albarn’s voluminous output, the quality would suffer, but with each of his myriad releases, be it as part of Blur, Gorillaz, the Good, the Bad & the Queen, Mali Music -- or as an opera composer -- he manages to build something solid and rhythmic. Much is due to his great choice in collaborators, and on this new project he’s snagged two masters: L.A. bassist Flea, and former Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen.

On paper, that’s an amazing rhythm section, and on the trio’s new collaborative self-titled album, it creates a funky kind of magic. Though Albarn is a Brit and Flea a Californian, the record in its heart is Nigerian, built to honor the ideas born in Afrobeat, the rhythmic mish-mash of James Brown-funk and African beats created by Fela Kuti.

That vibe flowers repeatedly on “Rocket Juice”: be it the strange keyboard solo on “Extinguished,” over which Malian vocalist Cheick Tidiane Seck roams; the exquisitely heavy Erykah Badu-sung jam “Hey Shooter,” which features New York’s Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and L.A. bassist Thundercat; or the Blur-suggestive song “Poison,” featuring a nice Albarn vocal turn.


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-- Randall Roberts

Photo: Rocket Juice & the Moon, from left, Damon Albarn, Tony Allen and Flea. Credit: Tom Sheehan