Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sunday Soul - Calypsoul 70

Juan Formel & Los Van Van

Strut Records has done it again: another album full of dusty gems dug up from who-knows-where. This time they've mined the musical treasure trove of the Caribbean to find twenty tracks that span not only ten years of time, but a wide range of musical genres. And when I say wide, I mean Grand Canyon style. The man we have to thank: Duncan Brooker, the same digger responsible for sending us Nigeria 70.

A lot of times soul compilations have the best intentions - locate and rescue hard to find / impossible to find soul tracks from somebody's closet, clean them up a little, put them together on one CD, and let it fly. Unfortunately though, some of the time they end of sounding like the same track on repeat. Sometimes the tracks they dig up were buried for a reason.

Thankfully, on Calypsoul 70, you'll find no such thing. In fact I would go so far as to say that this is one of the most diverse, yet coherent, collections I've listened to. That really should come as no surprise considering where this music comes from: a wide group of islands with very individual and diverse cultures that were then invaded / colonized by an equally diverse array of European powers. Sure you might be familiar with reggae, but how about calypso, steel drum ensembles, salsa, and an island flavored Afrobeat?

Some of the tracks on the comp celebrate the traditional homegrown styles of music that percolated in the Caribbean, and others display the effects of outside music being assimilated into musical forms already powerful in personal expression, resulting in soul, funk, disco, and Afrobeat akin to what was being produced in other parts of the world, but quite unique in its own way. As always with Strut liner notes, it's a mini-history lesson that's a hundred times more enjoyable than learning about the Louisiana Purchase.

If I wanted to really describe the music on Calypsoul 70, I would pretty much have to go track by track. Some of my favorites include The Little You Say ( a funky disco cut that opens the shin-dig up), the comp's title track Calypsoul (sounds like a Tito Puente number), Yo Tink It Sorf? (a reggae / rap number that's part music and part spoken word), Negril (it's got a funky organ line to it that reminds me of Jimmy Smith), Independent Bahamas and Freedom In Africa (both Black power anthems from the islands' quests for independence), Guanavaco (another Latin dance shaker like the title track), Woman (it's got a mean wah-wah guitar line and funk to it - hear it below), etc... I could say something about almost every track here (with the exception of one or two that drift perilously close to Bee Gees' territory for me).

I've expressed my unabashed love of everything Strut puts out before, but with Calypsoul 70, I think they've outdone themselves with their strongest offering yet.

Visit the Strut Records website.


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