BACAO RHYTHM & STEEL BAND: 55 (2016)

55 Bacao Rhythm Steel BandRating: ★★★★★ It’s been a long old wait since the Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band‘s 2007 debut seven inch of two steel drum Meters covers and the follow-up (2008’s long sold-out and much sought after cover of 50 Cent’s P.I.M.P. which people will still insist is the original sample source) but debut LP 55 is finally here. It’s the culmination of an obsession with steel drums developed by band leader Bjorn Wagner after a holiday in Trinidad and Tobago which led to his learning the ‘pans’, setting up a band and the album’s handle which appears to be a reference to the fifty-five-gallon chemical drums from which steel pans are traditionally made. And the all-instrumental sixteen-tracker is set to be one of the most significant funk LPs of the year.

Those who missed out on the original P.I.M.P. will be pleased to hear that it’s the LP opener and the closer (in its ‘version’ form) though sadly there’s no room for the Meters covers. But that’s because there’re fourteen cuts of so much other goodness on there. As the band’s singles discography would suggest, these are made up of a mixture of covers and original material. All of the tracks from all of the singles since 2014 are on here – and the first two of these also mixed up originals with covers (the excellent funky crunch of Bacao Suave backed with a cover of DJ Hi-Tek’s Round And Round and a cover of the Chakachas’ Jungle Fever backed with the hypnotic Tender Trap) while the most recent 45 featured two covers – one of Cat Stevens’ electronic number Was Dog A Doughnut and Faith Evans’ Love Like This. Of course there might be some who wonder if interest in instrumental steel drum funk can be maintained across fifty-four minutes but their fears are groundless when you consider that not only is the much-lauded Faith Evans cover not the best one after P.I.M.P., it’s not the best dancefloor track either. Those honours go respectively to the cover of Dennis Coffey’s Scorpio and the super funky ‘shoulda been an A-side’ Laventille Road March which was on the flip of 2014’s P.I.M.P. re-release. There’s even time for a bit of reggae in the shape of John Holt cover Police In A Helicopter. And by the monkey’s reckoning that is sixteen excellent reasons to check 55 out. Rhythm then and, most definitely, steel. No full LP audio yet – you’ll have to content yourself with the players below…
(Out 6 May on Big Crown Records)


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