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Now, if I could just track down some conch salad…

July 24, 2013 Leave a comment

ronnieramblersEdit: originally published April 23, 2010, some edits to text and new links.  I have been back to the Bahamas since this post.  (In fact, in a truly odd coincidence considering where I now live, both the first and last stamps in my 2005 passport were from the Bahamas.)  I ate more conch salad, amongst other activities in and on the beautiful and impressive Exuma Islands.  But more relevant to the blog, I had a few years back located a 45RPM copy of Shot Gun Weddin’ by Ronnie Butler and the Ramblers, which I have digitized and linked to for your amusement.  Interestingly, later in the same recent Bahamas and Florida trip, I saw a second copy in this wonderful place, but since I respectfully disagree with the owner’s pricing system, I did not buy everything I could have.  If you need a copy, call him.

I only spent three days in Nassau way back in 2005, but a few things have stuck with me from that holiday – lust for fresh conch salad, and the mystery of a song called “Shotgun.”  Not too often that you hear the hook from a song once after a few beers and can hum it to yourself five years later – but that was the case here.  Very vivid memories, actually, considering the number of Kaliks I probably consumed that evening at the beachside shanty.  Maybe the chili in the conch salad helped.  Anyway, after getting home, I broke up with the girlfriend I was there with, and Lazy Sunday hadn’t come out yet, so Youtube wasn’t available to help with the search.  So I gave up, more or less.

Today I was delivered a compilation record that I ordered for a completely unrelated reason (i.e. for another post coming soon to a blog near you).  This LP, entitled “This Is Sue,” has a song called “Shotgun Wedding” by Roy C.  Not having heard it before I thought it might have been THE “Shotgun” I was looking for.  Not the case, but it inspired me to do another search (on Youtube this time) – and I found it!  I’m proud to present “Shotgun Wedding” by Ronnie and the Ramblers, one of the Bahamas’ preeminent calypso groups.

Great song, especially if you imagine a bar full of Nassau locals singing along – and pausing perfectly before Ronnie says “shotgun.”   I’m not sure whether this is the same version that I heard in the bar, but searches in all the usual haunts haven’t produced an alternate.  I don’t have the record it came from, and unfortunately it’s tough to track down these calypso records considering how few copies were usually pressed (some ridiculous people online would like to charge over 175USD for a copy, but that’s appalling).

[audio http://www.divshare.com/direct/24310913-5e9.mp3]

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PS: here’s another funk nugget from Mr. Ronnie Butler – Bahama Rock.

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Categories: Calypso, Funky

The Gemini Brass and their split personality.

June 7, 2012 Leave a comment

I have a tremendous soft spot for Charlie’s Records of Brooklyn  In fact, I will buy nearly anything on the label, unheard if necessary, because of the high quality and total obscurity of many of the artists*.  Mind you it’s not like buying blind into, for instance, Elektra butterfly labels**.  The repertoire is predictable – usually Soca or Calypso, with varying degrees of funkiness inherent.  Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll find the odd psychedelic influence.

Today’s selection is one such lucky number – the B side*** of”Rock The Boat” by the Gemini Brass, entitled “Chicks from Block I.”  The flanged guitar plus organ combination would not be out of place on a compilation next to the Amboy Dukes.  Actually, if you take into account the almost tongue-in-cheek normality of the rest of the song (when that doo-doo-doo-doo lead organ comes in in the middle, it slays me), you’d have to file it under an even stranger category.  Yes, I think the natural home for these chicks is on a compilation of French library music from the 1970’s.  Seriously!  It’s a weird cut.

[audio http://www.divshare.com/direct/18221838-68d.mp3]

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*Previously I posted a selection from Charlie’s house band: a delicious cover of Stevie Wonder’s Pastime Paradise.  Eat your heart out, Coolio!

**Someone ditched a box of Elektra promos from 1973-1974 at a local thrift store.  No wonder they brought in Geffen shortly afterwards to run things, the stuff was well-recorded but mostly crap – Mr. Linde being the most notable exception.

***The A-side is fun, but ends up sounding a bit like a college brass band at a football game (the Utah Utes Uchestra is Rockin’ The Boat!).  Maybe I’ll post that some other time.

Categories: Calypso

The Guyanese Dominators

July 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Don’t know much about the Dominators except that they are from Guyana and are somewhat barely google-researchable.  Therefore I think “I Want To Build” (I don’t know what “N.S.” is) is a bit of a rarity, although I’m not sure it’s in demand enough to really qualify for that.

Version 1, presented here, is a very bass-driven track, and it’s funky, although not in a funky drummer kind of manner.  In fact the drums are incidental to the point. It’s sort of a more fluid version of ska, maybe?  It does remind me of the Skatalites’ “Guns Of Navarone” a bit.

Version 2 is a more traditional reggae rhythm – not uninteresting but not a standout.

I do love the fact that all of these fabulous Caribbean musicians came to Brooklyn to commit themselves to wax – truly Brooklyn is the best.

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Categories: Calypso, Funky

Dispensation, isolation, exploitation?

March 19, 2011 1 comment

Sorry, this one’s a little rough.  But what a sound!  It’s like somewhere between disco, a blaxploitation soundtrack, P-Funk, James Brown’s cover of “Jimmy Mack,” the organist at Madison Square Garden and elevator music.  Also the beginning almost sounds like someone’s playing the song backwards.

Charlie’s Records is a shop in Bed-Stuy with what I think is a storied history – great blog post filling in some of the details here.  (I’m proud to have bought a copy of the mentioned Labor Day In Brooklyn With Mano Marcellin on a street corner in Brooklyn – I wonder if the 100 copies sold is an exaggeration, or whether another few hundred left through the back door?)  Not much info out there on this specific group – perhaps a house group, and Pelham Goddard (the arranger) turned up on a lot of Charlie’s releases.  I have reason to believe that K.H. Studio was/is in Port au Spain, Trinidad, though, so who knows what the order of operations actually was.

Enjoy the tune.

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Categories: Calypso, Funky

Keil Isles – If You Wanna Be Happy

May 13, 2010 Leave a comment

I was in Christchurch New Zealand recently and spent some time digging through piles of 45’s at a record store around the corner from Cartel Bar.  I kept coming across a group called the Keil Isles – figuring, due to the seeming age of the records (on the local Viking label), that they were an early rock group from the area.  When I came across a 45 with a cover of “If You Wanna Be Happy” I knew I had my prize of the day.

The Jimmy Soul version of the song, while not “original,” is the originator of the arrangement presented here (the original is a calypso from the 1930s by a guy called Roaring Lion).  Jimmy and I have a somewhat tortured history.  I first heard the song years ago on some random web page, but it was identified as being the Skatalites – naturally I searched for the Skatalites’ version for quite some time (shades of my search for Ronnie and the Ramblers!).  Eventually I found the original webpage and downloaded the poor quality MP3 – better than nothing.  (Not sure why I didn’t just search for the song name, duh.)

Then I found this 45 in NZ – leading me to a renewed search and Ace UK’s collection of Jimmy Soul’s greatest hits (none up to par of “If You Wanna Be Happy” I’m afraid).  All was right in the end.

The Keil Isles were one of the biggest early rock groups in New Zealand, according to their double CD collection (available on Amazon).  Funnily enough, it was started by Samoan immigrants who played together at their Mormon wardhouse.  The CD booklet says they leveraged Mormon connections to the USA to get up-to-date equipment sent to NZ.  I wasn’t under the impression that late 50’s-early 60’s Mormons were all that keen on promoting rock music, judging by the remains of their record collections at the DI.  I guess the rules for the outposts must have been different than the mothership.

And speaking of the home territories, Herma Keil (whose name sits atop the group’s on this release) later wound up living in Utah (home of a lot of other Mormon Samoan immigrants).  Picking up the 45 in Christchurch, I had no idea the story would lead back home.  Go figure!

Of the song’s potentially antifeminist theme I can only say “it could be worse.”  I don’t think it’s meant to be offensive, more a condemnation of vanity and selfishness.  The sentiment could surely be coarser: see the Cash Money Marvelous version, in which one of the reasons given is “messing around” without consequence.

The track itself is a bit slower than the Jimmy Soul version, and has a “party” segment in the middle that sounds spliced in at the front.  Do you think they realized they only had a minute and a half song and tried to stretch it out?  Other than that they do a pretty good job imitating the Church Street Five production style (thick and thumpy).  Having listened through the 2CD collection, I’m comfortable saying this is my favorite track of theirs.  Although there’s one more CD out in NZ only which seems to have a better track listing, neither CD has this track on it.  Hope you enjoy!

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Categories: Calypso, Rock