I’d forgotten how sad-sounding this album is. There’s a melancholy aspect to it that belies the ‘West Indian/UK funkers’ description. That’s why it’s special.
From 1971, released at a time that UK rock was mutating into prog or heavy from the various, numerous, individual styles. The album shares the dead, warm sound of the era and the group is clear and very present, the congas, shakers and tambourines bubbling, the bass dominating in a very different way to the American funk bands of the era. Tight, relaxed, it feels like their live shows would last hours, like Fela Kuti in Lagos except the student union venues that would have provided their bread and butter as Cymande got round the UK would have had too strict licensing hours.
Apart from the nascent reggae scene original Black British music back then would have been the more directly African sounding Osibisa, Eddy Grant’s Equals and Cymande. There were various covers bands, mixing reggae, ska and US soul and funk in one evening for a pre-disco crowd (wouldn’t you love to go back for one of these nights?) but a Black British band playing their own tunes would have been a huge novelty and it’s my guess that the slightly patronising exceptionalism they would have experienced meant that what they actually sounded like was almost ignored.
The closest act to their sound is probably the equally, criminally underrated War. But Patrick Patterson’s skipping rhythm riffs and Steve Scipio’s lazy bass lines gave Cymande something unique.
Partisan Records has remastered the original eponymously titled debut LP and it will be available on streaming platforms in December and in stores in January.
Really recommend you take a listen if you haven’t yet. This is an album totally worthy of re-release and classic status.