A vocal coach and a drummer walk into a bar…in Nigeria…in 1982. The bartender looks them over, and before they can order, he says, “Beat it.” The out-of-breath drummer says, “But I just got off work!”
Gloria Hart was an American singer who sang backup for the great Nigerian singer Onyeka Onwenu and worked as a vocal coach for famed Nollywood actor and musician Professor Bob Ejike. Mambo Kristo was a popular session drummer on the Nigerian scene. The sun-kissed sheen of early ’80s funk shines on their sole outing, heating up the grooves but also mellowing them out in all the right ways.
While this could be looked at as a shiny disco set, the secret heart of the affair is in the first cut on the B-side. “A Woman Can’t Go No Further Than (A Man Lets Her)” is a perfect nugget of Southern-fried soul in the Candi Staton or Ann Sexton vein. Churchy keys and slide guitar tangle themselves around a laid-back beat while Gloria’s call-and-response chorus lays down the law.
A quick rewind to the top reveals the first cut, “Ah Boom Boom Men-Kay,” as a traditional highlife with a boogie twist of handclaps and disco hoo-hoos. And while they announce themselves as a Nigerian band, the underlying modern soul approach quickly takes over with a classic duet between Mams & Hart on “You’ll Never Let Me Down” and another Southern slow-cooker, “Early Rose.” “Gotta Give It Up” is a KC and the Sunshine Band–style romp with the horns taking the cut on a solar flare roller-coaster ride that dips and glides over a mean Minimoog line.
The stars of the party are clearly the title cut and the raptastic “Pump,” an early example of African disco rap. Gloria takes a couple of verses in the middle of the song to throw down, but it soon devolves into crowd hoots and a drum break. The Minimoog gets its day in the sun as it takes off on the Patrick Adams Express, and the band gives itself a well-deserved hand.