TONY ALLEN: THERE IS NO END

No hyperbole – Tony Allen was one of the greatest drummers of all time. According to Brian Eno he was THE best. This is a man who, with his great friend Fela Kuti, invented Afrobeat. I was fortunate to see Tony drum live on two occasions. He was the epitome of cool. Donning a pork pie hat and a pair of shades, he made the whole thing look effortless. There was a colossal disconnect between the rhythms coming from the kit and the activity of the man wielding the sticks. It’s obvious that I was an admirer.

Tony Allen (far right), with The Good, The Bad & The Queen in December 2018. Photograph taken by Gordon Rutherford (yours truly).

However, that’s not why There Is No End is included in this particular ‘best of’ list. It’s here on merit. There is an incredible story that lies behind the creation of this album. The plan was that Allen would lay down a series of beats whilst listening to iconic hip-hop on his headphones. He would mould and shape those grooves into something different, something new, before inviting other artists to overlay their art on top. Tragically, Tony Allen passed before the second stage records could occur. But the textual landscape had been created by the maestro. The next generation picked it up and took it on. Spectacularly.

Cosmosis was the hit. This was was completed whilst Allen was still with us and was created in a conventional studio setting along with Skepta and Nigerian poet and author, Ben Okri, who delivered a series of powerful spoken word passages from his poem, The Present Moment.

The remaining tunes were developed from across the US and these shores, with each collaborator bringing their own special local vibe. From New York, Tsunami brings a visceral delivery to the portentous Très Magnifique whilst Rich Black is pure LA. It’s built upon an incessant beat and super-catchy synth melody. But this collection’s finest moment comes in the shape of One In A Million. It’s a funk-fused workout that is elevated by the album’s stand out vocal contribution from West London rapper Lava La Rue.

In summary, There Is No End is the most fitting legacy imaginable to this wonderful master of the drum kit. I play yours, you play mine. The music never ends.

*Should you wish to read more of my thoughts on this fine, fine album, you can do so here.

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