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Earl Rodney

Friends & Countrymen

(EM; US: Available as import; UK: Available as import)

“The first-ever solo album from a Trinidadian steel pan player” apparently—or at least it was in 1973. The repository of eclectica that is Japan’s EM label has seen fit to reissue it with typically stylish attention to detail, cosmovisionary cover art, original sleevenotes and all. The actual music is rooted in dense, fecund ethno-funk of the Cymande genus, recorded amid the Afro-Latin ferment of 70s NewYork, with Lord Kitchener/Mighty Sparrow arranger Rodney slack-clinking his steel over the top. It’s a heady, largely instrumental brew smoky with viscous basslines, wah-wah guitar and open ended rhythm, content to let its grooves play out rather than run them into hooks. As thick and stoned as the atmosphere gets on the likes of “Peace Pipe” and “Midnight Man (O’ Mo’O’Ru)”, the bright, Hugh Masakela-esque voicings of trumpeter Fortunia Louis Ruiz—and limpid fills of Rodney himself—flash their agility through the fug, blazing out on the carnival high of a title track.

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