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Blo

Blo fused the Afrobeat rhythms of their native Nigeria with the mind-expanding psychedelia and funk of late-'60s Western rock to forge a wholly original sound embracing the full spectrum of black music. The roots of the group lay in the Clusters, already one of the most popular Nigerian highlife acts of the mid-'60s even prior to a stint as the support band for the Sierra Leonean pop superstar Geraldo Pino, once dubbed "the West African James Brown." In 1970, guitarist Berkely "Ike" Jones, bassist Mike "Gbenga" Odumosu, and drummer Laolu "Akins" Akintobi left the Clusters to join Afrocollection with twin sisters Kehinde and Taiwo Lijadu (featured a decade later on the British television show The Tube), moving away from their highlife roots to explore a more pronounced Afro-Rock approach. While performing at the Lagos club Batakuto, Afrocollection jammed with Ginger Baker, the renowned drummer from the British blues-rock supergroup Cream; in late 1971, the members of Afrocollection joined Baker in forming the jazz-rock ensemble Salt, making their live debut the following year alongside the legendary Fela Kuti.

Despite a series of well-received live appearances throughout Western Europe and North America, the Salt project proved short-lived, and in late 1972, Jones, Odumosu, and Akintobi formed Blo, touring relentlessly in the months to come, prior to recording their EMI Nigeria label debut Blo: Chapter One. Drawing equally on the pioneering Afrobeat of Fela and Tony Allen as well as the American psych-rock of bands like the Grateful Dead and the Byrds, the record failed to live up to EMI's commercial expectations, and after signing to Afrodisia, Blo resurfaced in 1975 with Phase 2, pushing further into funk and R&B territory. Grand Funk Railroad and the Isley Brothers were the primary influences on the trio's third LP, Phase 3, but as lackluster sales continued to dog the group, Blo faced greater corporate pressure to reflect contemporary musical trends -- specifically, disco, a shift culminating with 1980's Bulky Backside, recorded in London. Blo dissolved following the 1982 release of Back in Time; the retrospective Phases 1972-1982 appeared on the Afro Strut label in 2001. ~ Jason Ankeny
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