Monday, February 20, 2012

Bacchanal Take Over — Old Style Soca Selection

I see it’s been a long, long time I’ve left you without a beat to step to. Sorry about that — and no, I haven’t been in jail for almost the past five years! There’s a third volume of Wax d’Afrique at some indeterminate stage of selection, but in the meantime . . . 

This being Mardi Gras, the musical theme turns towards Carnival music in general this week. In my particular case this year, I’ve ventured deeper into soca than I often do primarily because of the almighty classic “Lorraine” by Explainer, a tune that resides pretty much permanently in my head. Some call this phenomenon an earworm. Suddenly yesterday, it had to burst out into the real world. One thing lead to another and the whole soca vinyl collection came out for an airing and soon I’d jammed up this Bacchanal Take Over selection presented here. 

I don’t really have much to say about soca. The true neophytes among you will perhaps need to be told that the word comes from SOul-CAlypso. Its roots are in the carnival music of Trinidad and it developed from the earlier form of calypso in the late 1970s. Originally it was somewhat controversial because it’s basically party music rather than employing the lyrical inventiveness of calypso. However, there are plenty of soca songs that address social and political issues; one or two them even appear in this Bacchanal Take Over. 

For about five minutes somewhere during the early days of world music in the mid 1980s, there was an idea that soca might be the next big thing, but for a variety of reasons that obviously never happened although Arrow had a major crossover hit with “Hot Hot Hot” in 1984. To my mind, besides the usual unrealistic high hopes of complete and utter cultural crossover, the problems for soca were that much of it sounds rather same-y and is also frequently of not very good sound quality — I'm thinking I managed to have at least skirted these two issues with Bacchanal Take Over. It’s also produced for a particular cultural purpose, Trinidad’s Carnival (surely one of the world's greatest carnival celebrations), and so all releases appear in the months before Mardi Gras and then disappear, which made things like distribution and marketing to a larger audience a bit trickier than ideal. Lastly, when it came to club play, I didn’t find it extremely danceable even though many of these tracks came on 12” disco singles and are obviously set up for mixing; it seems to do better as a sort of more informal street dance or parade style. 

None of that stopped me from buying as much of it as I could back in the day and I had a good time looking through albums and auditioning tracks. It’s fascinating to see albums with advertisements for Caribbean restaurants, car dealers and BWIA West Indies Airways on the back of the sleeve. I’d guess that often the advertisements are for other business interests of the producer — but it definitely gives a funky and idiosyncratic feel to the whole artifact. 

I’ve noticed that with the advent of mp3s from Amazon and sources like eMusic that many of the old tracks are now more readily available than they were back when this vinyl came my way. So, if you like what you hear here, I encourage you to investigate further; you will meet with success and purchasing opportunities — but, sorry, you’ll miss the ads. 

So, I hope you enjoy Bacchanal Take Over and that it gets you through to next year’s Carnival. Please note that there’s more music on the selection than will fit on a CD if you’re thinking of burning one. This is a feature not a bug! You get to determine which tracks to leave off — it’s collaborative, interactive compilation making. 


1. Explainer — Lorraine 
2. Charlie's Roots — Permission To Mash Up The Place 
3. Trinidad Bill — Carnival Bacchanal 
4. Lord Laro — Rockin' Soca 
5. Winsford Devine — Baratiélé 
6. Liquid Sound Brass Super Power — Crazy Mass 
7. Shadow — Feeling The Feeling 
8. Preacher — Abu Baka Take Over 
9. Byron Lee & The Dragonaires — De Music Hot Mama 
10. De Mighty Trini — Curry Tabanca
11. Spice & Company — Lift Ya Leg Up 
12. Fabulous Five, Inc. — All Night Party
13. The Quelvis & Wellington — Biggest Party 
14. Commander — Slavery Done 
15. Calypso Rose — Land Of The Light 

DOWNLOAD — Sorry again, I had to break the files into two zips. Either will work on their own. Part 1 has tracks 1 thru 10.
Part 2 has the other tracks plus .png art to print a CD cover if wanted.