Upbeat (July/August 1998)

New Caribbean Music


CHORAL

One Caribbean Voice

Signal Hill Alumni Choir (Sanch Electronix Ltd)

Pleasantly jaunty is about the best way to describe Signal Hill Alumni Choir’s One Caribbean Voice. In this their fourth CD — others are Xmas Coming (1987), Xmas Coming Sequel (1988) and Seasons (1992) — the Tobago-based folk chorale is customarily smooth, their instruments, pan in particular, adding sweet accompaniment. And they’ve selected a wide range of music: like Soca Jam, a medley of last year’s party hits, including Ronnie McIntosh’s Ent; Third Bass’s High High; 3-Canal’s Blue; and Big Truck by soca superstar Machel Montano. Despite the pace changes, the songs flow smoothly and professionally, typical of a choir which was last year awarded a Hummingbird Gold Medal. Other popular and well-known tracks include Umbayaya, Rudder Medley, and Caroline. I found it hard to swallow the impersonation of Shadow by one of the basses in the theme song,One Caribbean Voice — and in the choir’s take on Shadow’s Poverty Is Hell. We already know he isn’t Shadow, so why the attempt? And I was sorely confused when, in trying to follow the order of the tracks, I realised they were printed in incorrect order on the back cover. Nevertheless, musical director and composer of two of the songs (One Caribbean Voice and Soca Ambassadors) John Arnold has done a decent job. If you’re looking for a CD to keep your guests politely chipping at your soirée, this is it. (MH)

SOCA

Fu Real

El A Kru (Magic Christian Music)

This is probably the best you’ll get in Antiguan soca, replete with instruction-filled songs and “wine” and “jook” commands. Tracks like Position, drawing heavily from the music and style of Bajan band Square One and its lead singer Allison Hinds (and also from Beenie Man and Lady Saw in their hit Hot So Hot); In De Army and Boot Camp (both army songs to their core: “eyes right”, “left right left right”); and De Spirit (“leh me see you leggooooo”) are the ultimate in fete music. In fact, the CD is one long wine an’ jam session, only really slowing down to breathe in Girlztown — a variation of I’m A Girlwatcher, performed dancehall style. After that, it’s full steam ahead again. All 10 tracks were written by the Kru and produced and arranged by them. What’s the verdict? Quite good, if you like that kind of thing. (MH)

REGGAE

Friends

Sly And Robbie (Inoks Records Inc)

This is an eclectic blend of classics originally written and sung by big-name Jamaican artists, in the main, and re-recorded by other well-known singers. Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, two of the best drum and bass players in the reggae world, have lined up the likes of Mick Hucknall (of Simply Red), Maxi Priest and Danny Madden, to sing Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, John Holt and Al Campbell hits. Hucknall, singing Isaacs’s Night Nurse and Brown’s Ghetto Girl, does a decent job, but Isaacs and Brown he ain’t. In fact, I would have left those songs well alone because, at the end of the day, who can do the job like the original “dans” themselves? Madden wraps his vocals around the popular Candy Girl, and to Only A Smile Priest lends his voice; and neither of the tracks are bad. But by the time you get past the Mission Impossible theme song and arrive at Satisfaction, written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (and it’s not even dub style), you begin to wonder if you’re still listening to the same CD. Basically, Friends, which shows off Sly and Robbie’s musical skills, could have benefited from a different selection of songs. That is really where it falls flat. (MH)

Stranger

DAVID KIRTON (Birds Eye Music)

David Kirton’s Stranger is one of the best reggae compilations on the market. Smooth, a la Sade, jazzy in some parts and funky in others, the tracks make delightful listening if you’re a “lover’s rock” fan, or if you just want a relaxing alternative to the Bujus, Beenies and Bounty Killas of today. The title track, Stranger, and Reggae City are among the best. There’s some funky synthesizer and keyboard work in them and the young Barbadian musician’s voice isn’t half bad. His back-up singers are also worthy of mention — their voices blend well. Stand Up is heavy on bassline and bongos and reminiscent, in parts, of Burning Spear. Cool Breezin’ is a breezy kinda tune — a song that goes down well while cruising through the sun-drenched countryside in your convertible, top down of course. Culture Fusion borders on R&B’s “soft and soothing” and Show Me Your Lovin’ was made for couples to gaze into each other’s eyes. Bubblin’, in a completely different vein, is delightful rock and roll/swing. Yep: Kirton’s good. (MH)

JAZZ

But Beautiful

Kelwyn Hutcheon and the Felix Roach Acoustic Jazz Ensemble (Sanch Electronix Ltd)

Kelwyn Hutcheon has been singing in public for nearly 50 years, once having the title “Boy Wonder of Trinidad” on a 40s Radio Trinidad programme. He knows how to deliver a tune better than most and, in this selection of 13 popular standards, demonstrates how with an expressive, silky croon. Produced with lush clarity by Simeon L. Sandiford — there are extensive sleeve notes about the recording process — and accompanied impeccably by Felix Roach’s Jazz Ensemble, But Beautiful is, indeed, a beautifully recorded collection of nostalgic classics: Gershwin’s Someone To Watch Over Me — a duet with the impressive Tricia-Lee Kelshall, once of soca band Second Imij; Gershwin’s Our Love Is Here To Stay and My One And Only Love; Rodgers and Hart’s My Funny Valentine; Noble’s The Very Thought of You. And there’s a smattering of enjoyable instrumentals as well: Autumn Leaves, with Mona Lisa and Wave given local treatment by Anthony Rose’s pretty steelpan. A diverting assortment of romantic songs, performed with poise, produced with polish: perfect for candle-lit evenings and lonely hi-fi buffs alike. (MM)

Reviews by Marcia Henville and Mark Meredith