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All For You

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These sweet, toe-tapping time capsules prove that the brassy pop highlife music that erupted out of Ghana in the ’50’s did more than get an audience to swing out on Saturday night; it also reclaimed a culture. Giants of Danceband Highlife shows how bandleader E.T. Mensah and his Tempos (and other groups that followed his lead) incorporated local rhythms and languages into imitations of Cuban-American big-band music being played by most West African groups; the results are a dated but addictive mix of Dixieland, cha-cha, and stunning ancestral cross-rhythms. All for You is all Mensah, offering the much-loved pioneer at his most disarming (including an instrumental version of the traditional ”John B. Calypso” that predates the Beach Boys hit ”Sloop John B” by more than a decade). By the late ’60s the dance bands were gone, swept away in a tide of rock-oriented, guitar-band highlife. These albums are moving snapshots of a sound that at its worst was merely charming and at its best was as hot as the sun under which it was recorded. Danceband Highlife: B+ All For You: B