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Cymande - Cymande CD (album) cover



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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars Cymande was a multi-national octet based in England, drawing members from Guyana, Jamaica and St Vincent, and although they didn't have the direct African link, they still had the blood and roots enough to come up about as close as the African-rooted Osibisa. Indeed Cymande's music spread through three albums in the early 70's was fairly similar to the Dean-esque flying elephant group, drawing on long instrumental phase, allowing much interplay between the 8 musicians, plenty of space for (soft) exploration, while remaining absolutely accessible to the greater mass of potential listeners, including even the most discerning progheads. Their music was evidently ethnic, percussive, psychedelic, progressive, danceable, fascinating, intriguing and exhilarating, that drew from jazz (the heavy brass section), funk (you couldn't black and not be funk back then),

Founded at the basement of a London strip club, the group recorded in Soho and released their first album in early 73, an album presenting 9 tracks, none over 6 minutes (except the superb almost 11-mins Dove), but leaving plenty of room for the numerous instruments. Sound-wise, as mentioned with Osibisa, you can also easily think of the Nu Yorican band of Mandrill or the Burdon-less War or in a lesser extent early Santana, but this is already quite a stretch. Driven by the organ and a great stomping bass, the group rocks, swings and funks.

Starting on Zion I, you'd believe that the group would draw a strong reggae feel, but it's not really the case, as with the following track One More, Cymande is off to a real African start, and its not Getting It Back that will change much, although this extreme sort of funky reggae with jazz influences is simply mind-blowing. But the rest of the album moves away and Listen has a definite Marvin Gaye's Grapevine feel. However, with the following Rickshaw, if the group hints a bit at War in its chorus, the music is enthralling and pure dynamite with delightful developments from guitars, flutes, percussions, bass etc. Much in the same vein Dove is equally heavenly, this time drawing on psychedelics ala Traffic and Rare Earth and it is a haunting guitar piece that could fit on some of the best Savoy Brown (I'm thinking somewhere on Raw Sienna, for example), although the slight descending scat/chorus line has a bit of a Coltrane feel (ALS). Such an excellent track!!!!. Bra is a strong change (even a good kick in the butt) to shake you from the enchanting torpor that had settled in with those two longer tracks, and the brassy funk is right up the Mandrill/War area. Some of you will remember the minor hit of The Message, one that was on Santana and War musical grounds, but the album closes on Rastafarian Folk Song, with a hilarious dialogue, before developing a reggae psalm, one that welcomes you in a different reggae world of The Wailers' territory.

Definitely one of the best etnic albums that adhered to the orog cannons of the early 70's, Cymande's debut album is a real must for anyone wishibg slightly different ethnic music, one that should make excellent mating music , or simply to share with the girlfriend.

BTW, not only is Cymande the 4000th artiste enteredin the db pf ProgArchives, but their first album was also theur 21000th album entered.

Report this review (#198520)
Posted Monday, January 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
Easy Money
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Rasta prog-rock is a reality! I had been expecting Cymande to sound more like fellow African influenced fusion rockers like Osibissa, Santana and Mandrill, but instead, Cymande offers a much cooler and relaxed musical vision than their previously mentioned high energy musical brethern. 'Late night' is the best way to describe the sound of this very laid-back mix of sparse instrumental prog - rock numbers, African jazz- rock, Rasta drums and international pop/soul music. I could imagine a late-night FM DJ from genres as diverse as progressive rock, acid jazz, world beat and rare groove/soul gems would be proud to slip on some of these cuts for an unsuspecting post-midnight audience.

When I mention the Rasta influence don't think reggae, this is more like Jamaican hill music passed down from Africa by Rastafarians who live in the country and play traditional African drums and sing long winding melodies that seem, to my ears anyway, to bear some influence from English church hymns and patriotic songs from long ago. Cymonde adds to that traditional Jamaican percussive base with the classic jazz rock instrumentation of drums, bass, guitar and woodwinds. Some of their music might remind you of Traffic, Peter Green, Gabor Szabo, Bo Hanson, Jade Warrior and some of Santana's more laid-back songs.

This is a great album, not particularly difficult or challenging, but by keeping it cool this band has made an album that has almost no embarrassing flaws, sometimes that is exactly what I am looking for. If you want that cool reverb-heavy late night vibe with an international percussive flavor, this one is for you.

Report this review (#209301)
Posted Monday, March 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Prog or not, this funk band is one of a kind in those circles in those days. Killer hooks, satient body - the entire record is a classic. I first heard the song "Dove" many years ago in college watching a strange movie called "Scrapple" and tracked down the album. Soon I was hooked on Cymande and the likes of Mandrill and other funk obscurities and legends.

Jazz Rock fusion is a stretch in my eyes, but a great 4000th add nonetheless. Cymande is in the same realm as Demon Fuzz in its obscurity and funk/rb/world roots. A special album that has been sampled countless times over the years by aspiring DJ's. Pick it up.

Report this review (#1360785)
Posted Monday, February 2, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars It's like early Earth Wind, And Fire or Osibisa.

You get some Africa inspired tracks, some funk and some jamming. There's a nice mix of style on the album.

Zion And I is like an older style reggae tune, not quite the poppier Bob Marley style.

One More is like a smooth jazz little ditty, no vocals just quiet instruments chilling it up in the foreground while guitar plays its liquid lead.

Getting It Back starts with ominous sounds then heads into an early 70s funk sound with light worldly percussion. The vocals are done competently and the horns add something nice.

Listen continues in the direction laid by Getting It Back. A bit more Motown, but not like on the hits but a filler track on a The Supremes early 70s album. This song strikes me as over long, should have been trimmed of unnecessary repetition at some points.

Rick Shaw opens with some nice percussion work that is joined by hypnotic bass and flute. This part is nice, shows the beginning of Getting It Back wasn't a fluke. While not the star player e piano fills adds some hair to this number. Later the flute exits and a nice guitar solo comes in. Then the tunes theme, played on flute/trumpet takes the song to its conclusion. A very solid instrumental.

Dove, the longest song on the record opens up well with emotional guitar work and sparse percussion/bass. At around a minute the song picks up and the guitar solo proceeds over a more vigorous rhythmic bedrock. In the middle of the song some la la las come in for a bit alongside flute. The guitar then returns until about seven minutes when the vocals come back. After this the rhythm changes to the openings. At nine minutes the rhythm return to how it goes for most of the song and Dove ends with a stop then cymbal swell, done. I must say the guitar is done very tasteful on here, while maybe not the best guitarist they know how to keep the same notes interesting by mixing up the technique. Gradually they leave less space between when they unleash some notes, hit double stops and use vibrato/bends to build interest as the jam continues. This one reminds me of Santana's longer instrumentals or Ice off I Can See Your House From Here.

Bra returns to the standard funk style of the album found on Getting It Back/Listen. The bridge here features a nice saxophone on lead. A second bridge after the second verse/chorus features cowbell and bass on lead, very nice. The song just ends after the third verse/chorus.

The Message opens with organ and vocals that remind me of Prince due to the combination of Fasetto and not-really-sung-spoken- word-singing style of the man. The organ is an important instrument of funk so it's work here is absolutely welcome.

Rastafarian Folk Song opens with speaking to the listener about the song and some kind of explanation. Then the song begins with percussion and choral vocal work. Pretty much exactly what the title says.

Overall it's a good record but I think if your not interested in the sound of bands like Mandrill or Demon fuzz or the other bands I've mentioned you probably won't enjoy this one.

Report this review (#2593335)
Posted Thursday, September 9, 2021 | Review Permalink

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