After the departure into James Brown afro-Latin-funk territory for Heavy Hustling, the Latin soul adventures of the Boogaloo Destroyers, side projects like the tropical psychedelia concept album Go South/Vaya Pa’l Surby Los Terrificos with Jake Fader and several solo recordings under his own name that had a digital dance culture feel to them, Ray Lugo is back with the full band Kokolo Afrobeat Orchestra in what is being hailed as a “return to form” featuring the classic Fela-influenced yet highly original sound forged on earlier records like Love International (2007) and More Consideration(2004). Though not exactly a reunion album—the band haven’t stopped recording and touring together in one form another for the past 18 years—Lugo contends 100 Feversis the best representation of what Kokolo has always been, an “eclectic mélange of influences that reflect what is going on within us as a band as well as in our lives at that particular moment in time” which “further expand[s] Kokolo’s search for the funkiest groove,” a quest that Lugo hopes “never ends” but which he feels has benefitted by the band stepping back and “let[ting] our sound ‘breathe’ a bit and return with a fresher outlook.”
The record is fresh indeed and illustrates what Lugo calls “the variety of moods that exists in life itself” and it’s this eclecticism and variety that makes the album an invigorating experience from start to finish. “Recording variations of the same idea over and over has never held interest for me” admits Lugo, and one gets the feeling his band members must feel the same way. Working with Casey Howard (Saxophone), Chris Morrow (Trombone), Neil Chastain (Drums/Congas), Kavin Paulraj (Bass), Andy Averbuch (Guitar) and Jake Fader (Guitar) for so long certainly facilitated the album recording process because at this point Lugo feels “we all know each other quite well both on stage and in the studio” and “the band and I have been very fortunate to experience many wonderful things together over the years, but time has also brought about changes to each of us and these songs reflect some of this collective evolution.” There are elements of Colombian cumbia and champeta, Latin funk, reggae, ska, Brazilian, house, disco, psychedelic, and jazz elements, calypso, salsa, even gospel (with secular, double entendre lyrics!), as well as electronic beats and DJ looping and mixing techniques blending with organic, acoustic orchestral sounds, plus some mean guitar and of course African roots from high life and soukous to the Nigerian mother load called afrobeat. As with previous Kokolo releases, Spanish and Portuguese vocals are in as much evidence as English ones. Special guests include Jo Jojo Kuo from Cameroon and Elani from Brazil. Every tune is danceable but each has its own vibe from up to down tempo, protest to dance culture, social justice to hedonism. The record comes with an insert featuring an interview with Lugo, full credits and lyrics. The album ends with the lilting, mellow La Buena Fe, a track that points to the central theme of the record. “If nothing else, the message I like for people to take away from listening to Kokolo or seeing us live is this: positivity,” concludes Lugo. We live “in a world often filled with drama and problems,” and so Lugo “would like to think that being positive, thankful, can account for something. It provides an alternative.” Put the whole thing together and you get a heady mix that is sure to pass the fever on to whoever listens.