Upbeat (Winter 1994)

Reviews of new Caribbean Music

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Lyrics Man

David Rudder (Lypsoland)

A lyrics man is a calypsonian with a strong message: listen to the words, not just the music. This is Rudder’s 1995 Carnival album, and features his own distinctive brand of rapso, uptempo and mid-range calypso. The titles are ironic: Heaven is about war in Rwanda, Another Day In Paradise is a cynical commentary on contemporary Trinidad society. It’s Only Natural is an early piece, written when Rudder was a teenager. Hallelujah was written for the 1995 Carnival band of the leading designer Peter Minshall.

Desmond Dekker and The Aces

Desmond Dekker (Trojan)

This is a historic compilation of classic Jamaican pop by one of its pioneer singers. Dekker popularised reggae internationally before Bob Marley and The Wailers arrived: he had a string of hits for the Jamaican label Beverley’s in 1969-70, and six UK chart hits between 1967 and 1975. The compilation covers 1965 to 1971 and a variety of styles. There’s a bristling ska Get Up, Edina. 007 (Shanty Town) was at the time the best known “rude bwoy” tune, and reached the British charts in 1967 despite the heavy patois that most British listeners could not understand. Dekker scored again with Sabotage, but his biggest hit, Israelite, topped the British chart in 1969 and made the American Top Ten. The music has not dated: Dekker’s voice still soars clearly and sweetly through the selections, and the musical backing is tasty and light, making these songs some of the best dance music of the period.

In Control

Beres Hammond (Elektra)

This is a debut album for Hammond with a major record label. American companies have been signing a whole series of Jamaican acts, and Elektra is hyping Hammond, the most seductive and adored voice in Jamaica, with a string of hits in Jamaica to bear that out. But can this album translate into international success, reach beyond the ethnic market to the bigger pop audience? Of 14 songs, two being bonus tracks, No Disturb Sign, the single from the album, has the best potential for pop success. It’s Not Too Late is also a nice track, featuring Maria Griffiths in a duo with Hammond. The album would have stronger appeal if there was a greater variety of songwriter and producer input.

The Duke Collection

The Mighty Duke (Ice Records)

A collection of timeless classics by one of the most beloved calypsonians. Duke — Kelvin Pope from Point Fortin — made calypso history as the only singer to be crowned Calypso Monarch in four consecutive years. He is one of calypso’s most versatile performers, known for his traditional styling, and capable of witty double-entendres like Pinch Yourself and poignant political commentary like How Many More Must Die.

No, No, No

Dawn Penn (Big Beat)

It’s not surprising that You Don’t Love Me succeeded as a pop hit for Dawn Penn. It has a good lyric, a “hook” (a prerequisite for any successful pop song), and the musical backing is interesting. Not to mention the extra production value of a classic dj sample by U-Roy’s “wake the town and tell the people”. This album has two covers, I Want A Love I Can See and The First Cut Is The Deepest. But if the collection had more material at the level of her hit single, it would be assured of greater success as a pop album. That is the challenge facing all the Jamaican talent currently being wooed by American record companies.

Caribbean Soca Hits

Xtatik, featuring Machel Montano and Wayne Rodriguez (Rainbow WIRL RW425)

This is one of the liveliest of the 1994 post-Carnival collections flooding out of Trinidad and Tobago during the year. Released in June, it features the popular By All Means which was Montano’s big Carnival success for 1994; several of the tracks are soca medleys, but there’s also a version of Shadow’s Poverty Is Hell. Montano is perhaps the youngest veteran in the business, having been singing almost since he was in the cradle; he is already well travelled with his band Xtatik, working with artists from Shabba Ranks and Ziggy Marley to Billy Ocean as well as keeping himself in the forefront back home in Trinidad.

Introducing The Preacher

Preacher (Ice Records)

Barnet Henry, The Preacher, swept away the 1994 Road March title in Trinidad and Tobago; his first full-fledged album shows off a big talent. Henry sings ballads, soca, reggae and ragga soca, in a production that offers original and remixed versions of the 1994 Road March Jump and Wave Again. There is a remix and a rap-remix of Preacher’s early 94 Carnival release Rattlesnake, which did well in the fetes. Also included is Preacher’s first recorded song Obeah and other early hits like Pan Revenge and One For The Road, written by Allison Ayres, in which Preacher predicted the upset of SuperBlue. Three brand new tracks are included among the ten.

A Tribute To Lord Melody

Lord Melody (Ice Records)

This is a collection of calypso classics from one of Trinidad and Tobago’s greatest voices. The late Lord Melody was one of Sparrow’s great rivals; the two sparred in the calypso ring for many seasons. Among Melody’s greatest hits were Jonah And The Bake, Mama Look A Boo Boo There and Peddlars.

Hands Like Lightning

Liam Teague (Engine Room ERP 9307)

Pan soloist Liam Teague displays his remarkable skills on his first album. Teague, now studying music and specialising in pan in the United States, represents the new generation of Trinidad pannists. His performances are noted for their sizzling speed and velvet touch. Teague himself wrote three numbers for the album — the four- movement A Visit To Hell, Hands Like Lightning and Same Here. There’s an original piece by arranger Cally Panter called Nice. The other selections include Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry, Grover Washington’s Mr Magic, Have I Told You Lately, A Whole New World (the theme from Aladdin), and Love Is.

Raw Kaiso

Black Prince, Zandolee (Engine Room)

This taste of real old-time calypso could be the most unusual album of the year for Trinidad and Tobago. David Rudder, one of calypso’s leading lights and a former Calypso Monarch and Road March King, has teamed up with sound engineer Robin Foster to capture the old-time days with Zandolee and Black Prince, live in concert at the Mas Camp Pub in Port of Spain. Zandolee went down in Trinidad history as the man who wrote the most humorous “smut” calypso: Stickman Of The Year is regarded by connoisseurs as a classic. Black Prince, who performs only with his guitar, is enjoying a royal comeback which began two years ago with The Letter, which he performed in the tents in 1993.

Psyched

John King (Ice Records)

John King, twice the Cropover King of Barbados, offers a wide range of music on his latest album, from party and dance numbers to serious messages delivered with an uptempo beat. Among them are Jump And Wave ; Bacchanal, about the need to vent frustrations through that great Caribbean institution, the massive outdoors parties called fetes; One Man One Vote, a commentary on African politics; and a ragga soca, Boombaloom. There’s also a remake of an early calypso by Preacher called Travelling. I’m Back is about King’s stint on a cruise ship. There are four additional tracks on the CD.

New Day Dawning

David Rudder (Lypsoland CR 021)

This tribute to South Africa — originally released under the title 1990, with a couple of new tracks — features an intriguing blend of calypso and African highlife music. The material originated as Rudder’s live show Down At The Shebeen, performed before the collapse of apartheid and billed at the time as “a concert of conscience”, dedicated to South African freedom fighters. Among the selections are Johannesburg Woman, Fire In The Laager, Victory Is Certain and Working On The Join. Rudder is backed by soca’s most noted brass band, Charlie’s Roots, and the late guitarist Junior Wharwood is heavily featured.

Bang The Party Drum

KP and the Sunshine Band (Ice Records)

This is KP and the Sunshine Band’s fourth consecutive year of mixing up the hottest songs of Trinidad’s Carnival. This album, conceptualised by Kenny Phillips (KP), features ragga, rapso and hardcore soca jams similar to the medleys organised by Charlie’s recording studio in New York in the seventies. This album features vocal tracks by Blaxx, and each is 12-15 minutes long, great for parties. Medleys include Jump and Wave Again, Flag Party, Ragga Poom Poom, Jab Molassie (written by Preacher and originally sung by Leon Caldero), Fire (SuperBlue’s winning Panorama tune for Desperadoes), Gypsy’s Big Lyrics Thing, Butterfly (by Byron Lee and the Dragonnaires), and a whole host of ragga soca music which combines reggae, rap and soca in one smooth blend. Keyboards by Junior I.B.O. Joseph with Kenny Phillips on guitar, background vocals by Shades of Black, Major Ranks rapping and Oscar B chanting, and rapso by Barcum.

Fire In The Ways

Various artists (Ice Records)

This compilation album features the best of Barbados Cropover music. It includes the latest releases from The Mighty Gabby and Grynner. One of the biggest Cropover hits, A Ring A Ring A Ring Bang by Viking Thunder, is among the tracks.

Taking Care

Winston Garcia

A swinging gospel album from Winston Garcia and a group called People of Praise. The 10 songs range from traditional gospel music to gospelypso, an upbeat combination of gospel lyrics and calypso rhythm. Religious ballads and some r&b music are also featured. The album is notable for its strong background vocals.