It’s crazy how few people outside of the Afro-Disco digging fraternity knew about Rim Kwaku Obeng before BBE reissued his ‘Rim Arrives’ (1980) and ‘Too Tough’ (1982) albums in the latter quarter of this year. Perhaps not when you read about the tough times he had to endure to actually make these records, it appears that struggle was always his companion and these great records have taken nearly four decades to find their justified time in the spotlight. By the age of 18, he was regarded as a ‘Master Drummer’ in his homeland, Ghana, and was playing around the world in the top Highlife band of the era, Uhuru. Ambition and youthful dreams took him on painful and desperate solo trips to America (where he impressed Quincy Jones with his arrangements) and the UK, where in time honoured music business practice, was screwed royally and left destitute and homeless on the grim and grey streets of London. Through impressive self belief, hard work and that essential magic, luck, he managed to get the ear of the singer Joan Armatrading, who hired him and helped him back on the path of health and music making.
Rim hadn’t given up on America, however, and after his second move to LA, began training amateur musicians, students and non-singers (as well as using hot session players) in order to create a new sound that had it's home in disco but tasted of Ghana. Complex drum led grooves, modern disco and funk production, and traditional call and answer vocalising that sound as dazzling now as they must have seemed then.
Both records are superb, Rim Arrives has the brighter late 1970s production, raw energy roaring through the rhythms, razor sharp horn lines and on-the-one funk sensibilities. Too Tough from 1982 has the heavy warmth and incisive drum machine production of Sly and Robbie era Grace Jones and the Tom Tom Club and you can’t help feeling bewildered by the lack of success of this incredible record! Maybe if he had made it in New York and not California, Larry Levan would have come knocking and propelled Too Tough to the classic status it so deserves. Buy them.
Review by Ex-Friendly