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Rob - Make It Fast, Make It Slow

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Artist: Rob

Album: Make It Fast, Make It Slow

Label: Soundway

Review date: May. 2, 2012

The liner notes of Ghana Soundz, the compilation where most non-Ghanaians are likely to have first encountered the singularly named Rob, assert that he was signed to Essiebons records -- the label that also marketed Ebo Taylor and the immortal Honny and The Bees -- on the strength of his spectacular live shows. A look at his cut figure and cowboy hat on the cover of this record, or his similarly snazzy appearance in a vest and no shirt on the cover of his first LP Funky Rob Way (reissued last year by Analog Africa), imply that he could have been quite a sight on the stage. “Make It Fast, Make It Slow,” which appears on both Ghana Soundz and this record, delivers on that promise with a display of on-my-knees and in-yr-bed lasciviousness of epic dimensions.

But Rob had more on his mind than carnal conquest. After that song and the joint-popping opening gambit of “Loose Up Yourself,” Rob invites you to mull over what awaits you after post-coitus. An orgasm may be a petit mort, and death may await us all, but Rob assures us that death is “Not The End.” At least, not if you’re also right with God. As song titles like “He Shall Live in You” and “I’ve Got yo See You Again, Lord” attest, Rob was as concerned with Sunday morning and the afterlife as he was with Saturday night.

But don’t look to Rob for coherent statements on such matters, because enunciation and elucidation were not his strong points. On Funky Rob Way, Rob demonstrated a profound grasp of James Brown’s lesson that the most basic — or self-aggrandizing — expressions can sound pretty damned compelling if delivered with conviction over a good enough groove. Funky Rob Way’s tight grooves were way more than good enough to do the trick. On Make It Fast, Make It Slow, the horns hit enough bum notes that Mr. Brown would’ve docked their pay, and rhythms are looser and a bit less American-sounding. If the hand drums and bass intro to “Not The End” doesn’t make you think of Fela Kuti, the wandering electric piano line will. But the sentiments on “He Shall Live In You,” which is musically split between an Afrobeat wall of sound and grinding funk, are a long way from Fela’s — the chorus goes “Read Bible, Read Bible, Read Bible.” Rob sings in English, but whenever he strays away bald commands, his delivery is mush-mouthed enough that it’s hard to tell just what he’s going on about. But the raggedness around the edges does nothing to detract from Rob’s palpable conviction; if anything, it underscores his seriousness of purpose.

By Bill Meyer

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