||Friends and Countrymen CD (1973) |
Earl Rodney songs Recorded in New York in 1973, released that same year on Attilana, and reissued 35 years later by EM Records, Friends & Countrymen has stood the test of time. Earl Rodney and his countrymen were Trinidadian musicians on self-imposed exile, Rodney being one of Trinidad's best steel pan players. Friends & Countrymen is all about groove, heat, strong musicianship, fun... and the steel pan, of course! The instrument is prominently featured in the instrumental track "Midnight Man (O'Mo'O'Ru)," and always provides lead melodies and background accompaniment elsewhere. The grooves are deep Caribbean funks. Over the bass, drums, and percussion are stacked wah-wah guitar, horns a-plenty, and the alto pan. "Juck Juck" has a jam-goes-Afro-funk vibe. It's no surprise that it opens the album: its infectious beat and call-to-dance vocals immediately set the record player on fire. "Peace Pipe" is a humorous ode to marijuana, while "Strife in the Village," the album's most ambitious track, blends Chicago-type horn lines with Rodney's Island music. The second half begins with two mellower, more jam-oriented tracks (including the aforementioned "Midnight Man"). Then, the eight-minute "Friends & Countrymen" comes back to strong, uplifting songwriting, punchy horn lines, and a savory fusion of Caribbean and African styles. The steel pan is a difficult instrument to record and mix -- in the backgroud, it tends to get muddy; in the foreground, it takes a lot of room -- but engineer Haydin Harris did a fine job on this album. And Earl Rodney is definitely a stellar player, although his whole posse was quite talented. ~ François Couture
Personnel: Earl Rodney (steel pan); Fortunia Louis Ruiz (trumpet); Oxley Caballero (trombone); Johnny ...