Cult Cargo: Grand Bahama Goombay
This is a pretty much staggeringly awesome compilation of Bahamian funk from the late '60s and early '70s by artists you're virtually guaranteed never to have heard of before today. There are few lilting, reggae-inflected grooves here (the primary exception being the Mustangs' "The Time For Loving Is Now"), as one might expect from the denizens of a balmy island nation. No, the artists on Grand Bahama Goombay were the equals of their U.S. soul brethren, cranking up the distorted organs and picking guitars in perfect, James Brown-esque chicken style. There are some remakes of American songs here - Jay Mitchell takes on "Mustang Sally," while Esquires LTD work up a raucous version of "Theme From Shaft" that sounds like Chief Ebenezer Obey fronting a garage band. Vocalists on this disc run the gamut from the sweet female group the Gospel Chandeliers ("Honesty Is The Best Policy") to Mitchell's raw-throated belting on "Tighter & Tighter." Beyond its purely musical joys, this compilation documents a culture coming into its own - the Bahamas declared independence in 1973, and these songs, particularly those by Mitchell and Frank Penn, are as much about establishing an identity as they are about making pop hits. Just as American soul became a primary voice of the Civil Rights movement in the South, these Bahamian artists were expressing something ineffable and unique on their own terms, in their own communities. But, naturally, the primary reason to own this record is that it kicks incredible amounts of ass.