On September 8, Afrobeat legend Tony Allen will release The Source, the Nigerian-born Paris-based drummer's debut full-length album for Blue Note Records, following the tantalizing 4-track EP release A Tribute to Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.
It's not a surprise that professional athletes occasionally make records: back in the late '70s, Denver Broncos running back Jon Keyworth made a terrible soft rock album called Keys during the team's brief pre-John Elway heyday, and during their 2004 World Series season both pitcher Bronson Arroyo and general manager Theo Epstein of the Boston Red Sox were gigging around town with their own bands. However, there are two big surprises about the debut album from Ian Allen, a minor journeyman player for the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Arizona Cardinals: rather than the usual lame jock-rock, this is mellow, loungey downtempo electronica. Also, it's really quite good! Allen's tastes run toward skittering drum machines and house beats, but there's also a languid, jazzy quality to most of Nova's Lounge, and that tension keeps the record from drifting too far into shapeless ambience. Allen is a canny synthesist who doesn't stick with one set of influences for very long, preferring to layer a variety of sounds and beats into an enjoyable whole.
Infusing traditional gospel music with Memphis soul, Detroit-based singer Rance Allen helped pave the way for the secularized gospel sound of the '80s and '90s. After signing with Stax in 1969, Allen and his group proceeded to bring their hip brand of gospel to the masses by scoring several chart hits and opening concerts for the likes of Isaac Hayes. This hits package covers the group's successful run in the '70s, spotlighting Allen's incredibly flexible and powerful voice (one listens to cuts like "Ain't No Need of Crying" and "Gonna Make It Alright" and it's easy to figure out where Prince picked up his misty falsetto from). The selections include Allen's biggest Stax hit, "I Got to Be Myself," the spiritually reconfigured cover "Just My Imagination (Just My Salvation)," and modern gospel pioneer James Cleveland's "That Will Be Enough for Me." Allen contributes a handful of slick and spirited groovers, like "I Give My All To You" and "I Belong to You," and even goes in for a little disco on another original, "Smile" (considering Allen's devout nature, it's hard to tell if the more commercial elements in the music came from him or hit-minded producers).