CD reviews (May/June 2008)

Reviews of Caribbean related CDs

  • Ralph MacDonald. Photograph courtesy Sandrine Lee
  • Byron Lee. Photograph courtesy Byron Lee/Laura Lopez
  • Cane Fire Kaiso Blue

Mixty Motions

Ralph MacDonald

“My heart lies in two places: New York and the Caribbean, and so my music is always filled with mixed emotions.”

So writes Trinidad and Tobago-born Grammy-award-winning percussionist Ralph MacDonald on the jacket of his latest album, Mixty Motions.

But listen to this, his latest disc, and you may conclude that it is in the Caribbean, and not New York, that his heart really lies.

Proof of this lies in the 12-track set in which MacDonald drizzles some R&B over some breezy island-jazz flavours. On tracks like Rhythm of The Drum, You Need More Calypso and Don’t Stop the Carnival, MacDonald stays true to his Caribbean roots, complete with the sweet sounds of the pan from virtuoso Robbie Greenidge, with whom MacDonald worked on Grover Washington’s Just the Two of Us, taken from Washington’s Winelight disc.

Soul legends (Nick) Ashford and (Valerie) Simpson, the husband-and-wife duo known for hits like Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, also guest-appear on the disc, on Rhythm of the Drum and the soulful Love Will Find You.

Former Charlie’s Roots vocalist Roger George also appears, his vocals waxing assertive on We Need More Calypso and Little Black Samba. And you can’t miss the sound of US bassist Will Lee on the intoxicating Julian.



Byron Lee and the Dragonaires

You know you’ve achieved something when your collection of hits is packaged as Essential.

Twenty-four tracks long, the Essential Byron Lee and the Dragonaires follows the career of the Jamaican musician from as far back as the 1960s.

It’s a pity that, with all the technology these days, songs sourced from that period, including Oil in My Lamp, featuring Eric “Monty” Morris, and Wings of a Dove, featuring the Blues Busters, are of such poor quality.

The songs Dancehall Soca, Soca Butterfly, Give me Soca and Tiney Winey, released in the 90s, fortunately didn’t suffer the same fate.

As a bonus, listeners of Essential Byron Lee get a DVD that captures “the Dragon’s” 50th anniversary at the Air Jamaican Jazz and Blues Festival.




Kaiso Blue

Jeremy Ledbetter & Cane Fire

A musical tour of the Caribbean and Latin America is what this group has to offer.

Featuring the talents of Shaun Evans, Paco Luviano, Alexis Baro, Alberto Suarez, Mark Mosca, Chendy Leon and of course Ledbetter, the disc features Latin jazz, French-Caribbean zouk, Cuban conga and Brazilian olodun.

Impressive tracks on it are Canama, featuring the Gloria Estefan-soundalike Eliana Cuevas; St James, which features the pan-playing skills of Andy Narrell; the fast-as-lightning beat of Pepper Drinker; and the title track Kaiso Blue.

According to the liner notes, Kaiso Blue seeks to introduce listeners to sounds they’ve never heard before. I’m not sure that they have quite achieved that goal, but the disc is pleasing to the ear nonetheless.

Essiba Small

CDs courtesy Cleve’s One Stop Shop, Frederick Street, Port of Spain


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