Day by Day (Mercer Street)
Reviewed by Thomas Fawcett, Fri., Jan. 9, 2009
Femi KutiDay by Day (Mercer Street)
"Do you know Fela Anikulapo Kuti?" asks his son at the end of "Do You Know" from Day by Day. The question's rhetorical; any fan of Femi Kuti most likely basks in the colossal shadow cast by his pioneering Afrobeat father. Fair or not, Femi will never escape that shadow, but he goes a long way toward establishing his own legacy on his first studio album in seven years. Gone are the collaborations with hip-hop stars that gave 2001's Fight to Win a faintly forced feeling; welcome are elaborate jazz arrangements anchored by pounding polyrhythms. Kuti's 17-member Positive Force has never sounded better, delicately building tension on "They Will Run" and unleashing an unstoppable funk groove on "Tension Grip Africa." The album lacks the gut-punch intensity of brother Seun Kuti's recent debut, and the lyrics occasionally border on the trite, but Femi certainly lives up to the family name.