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Island Getaway

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Ronnie & The Ramblers : Echoes Of My Mind
taken from the album “An Evening With Ronnie At Ronie’s Rebel Room” on R&RR (196?)

Andre Tanker : Swahili and Lena
taken from the album “Afro Blossom West” on Atman (196?)

Trying to bring myself back to life today with a little imaginary sun soaked escape. My nose is dripping incessantly and I swear there’s a golf ball sized mucus lump lodged in my temple. Sounds pleasant, don’t it? In the effort to provide us all with a much needed vacation, I’ve pulled out these near-lost Caribbean gems. Sadly, I know very little about either of the artists except that they are both close to un-googleable. What little info exists on the interweb is less than satisfying. I’ve been searching (to no avail) for more music and information about these guys, so if any reader out there has something to contribute, please share. I should say first that I’m not all that interested in the more traditional Carnival/Soca music that Tanker produced in his later years- that stuff just doesn’t really do it for me.

Apparently “the Grandfather of Bahamian Music”, Ronnie Butler formed his Ramblers band in ’62 and played regularly in Nassau hotels. The only other record I’ve seen from him was recorded at a different hotel a year earlier. I guess the tourist-based economy meant that hotel sponsorship provided one of the few recording opportunities. His cover version of Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talking” (from the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack) absolutely slays me- just listen to that guitar solo! Nice chorus vocals too. Kinda ironic that this Bahamian superstar is singing about finding escape in a sunny place, the escape that Jon Voight finally found in Florida just as his beloved cohort Dustin Hoffman tragically died on his shoulder!

I was first introduced to the Trinidaian Vibist/Drummer Andre Tanker via Brooklyn’s greatest pirate radio station. It was a fierce afrobeat sounding track with an open drum break in the intro. Been searching for more Tanker ever since. I got my hands on a couple of beautiful fusion tracks that he recorded in the 70’s from this excellent Crippled Dick compilation. And then, just recently I picked up this pearl of a record. Afro Blossom West also features a fiery cover of “Wachi Wara” and a nice boogaloo called “Party In The City”. But for me, it was the powerful building progression of “Lena” and the dancefloor friendly “Swahili” that stuck out most prominently. Both are Tanker originals. If you’re not convinced by “Swahili’s” rumbling beginning, then hold out for the backbeat to come clamouring in at 2:20! Clearly, the man was doing his own thing and experimenting liberally. If and when something turns up, rest assured you’ll hear about it.