Caribbean Playlist (November/December 2015)

This month’s listening picks

Tropical Disco Hustle Volume twoReggae Gold 2015Nappy: Music ManShort Term Love

Tropical Disco Hustle Volume Two — Various Artists

In the 1970s, when disco had the world dancing, the Caribbean was not a region of mimic men. Rather, we produced musicians who were influencing the world and signifying that their music could and should be on playlists at Studio 54 and Régine’s. This compilation album of retro Caribbean disco grooves was researched by Deano Sounds out of Boston, and includes a couple of re-mixes by French rare-groove DJ Waxist Selecta and legendary UK DJ Al Kent. It follows an earlier compilation by the label, and suggests that the trend of searching for the original impetus in disco music and placing it in its geographical context is a worthwhile endeavour. The music of Trinidad, featuring three cuts by vocal harmony stalwarts Wild Fire and mined from the archives of Brooklyn-based Charlie’s Records, plays side by side with tracks from St Lucia, Guadeloupe, and Jamaica. Funky, soulful, and hopeful are apt adjectives to describe that original sound.

 

Reggae Gold 2015 — Various Artists

2015 was a good year for dancehall and reggae, and pioneering label VP Records has compiled some of the best songs of the past twelve months on its annual collection of hits. Busy Signal’s minimalist yet catchy anthem “Text Message” along with Gyptian’s smooth groover “All On Me” and comedian Eddie Murphy’s successful segue into reggae crossover, “Oh Jah Jah”, are all included here among the album’s twenty tracks of hits, also featuring legends like Sly and Robbie, Beres Hammond, dancehall icon Vybz Kartel, and roots reggae king Jah Cure. Reggae music broke into mainstream consciousness about forty years ago, and for more than two decades VP Records has been compiling the best in reggae, dancehall, lovers rock, and roots dub. 2015 is no different, and this collection is worth every cent. The continued efforts of the label and the artists to expand the “dialects” of world musics is unending and rewarding.

 

Nappy: Music Man — Richard “Nappy” Mayers and others

Nappy Mayers was a kind of Trinidad music wunderkind who produced many hit records from the 1970s up to the early 1990s, when he passed away. German re-issue label Cree Records has repackaged those songs for a new generation and a new global audience, both on CD and on vinyl. Mayers, as a kid, was part of the island’s vibrant “combo” music scene of the 1960s — young teenage groups playing pop-influenced music — who formed his iconic band Embryo and begin recording by the mid 1970s. His music absorbed a range of influences, from American pop and soul to Jamaican reggae to the newly burgeoning soca of Trinidad, and the resulting sound reflected this eclectic palate and strongly showcased Mayers’s talent for crafting a memorable melody. Songs like the perennial “Wanna Make Love To You”, featuring Nadie LaFond, and “Ebony Girl”, with the killer bass line, make this set a keepsake for nostalgia buffs and a must-have memento.

 

Single Spotlight

Short Term Love — 5 Miles To Midnight

Island rockers 5 Miles To Midnight are back after a brief hiatus with a single produced by star producer Sheriff Mumbles. “Short Term Love” departs from their super-charged sonic aggression to a mood of soulful yet vibrantly rocking contemplation. This track documents a new reality for singer Liam King, or maybe it’s the whole band: life is short and good things do come to an end. “The sun has set in the sky, but also on us / Stop imagining there’s something more,” is a declaration of the boundaries evident in human relations. This young band has chosen a path of honest reflection, and the song can be heard as the antidote to the numerous cloying love ballads in constant rotation in the soundtracks of our lives. Pop blandness is replaced with a “riddim” suggesting that you can either dance to this or listen well and sing along loudly.

Reviews by Nigel A. Campbell