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CYMANDE

Cymande

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
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.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#198520)
Posted Monday, January 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
js (Easy Money)
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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.

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Send comments to js (Easy Money) (BETA) | Report this review (#209301)
Posted Monday, March 30, 2009 | Review Permalink

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