Coming from the UK via the West Indies (Jamaica and Guyana), Cymande started making funky jams that have become mainstays for party rockers in the US and internationally. I bought Second time Around — their sophomore LP on Janus Records — at a flea market over a decade ago and was immediately drawn to the record because of its artwork and the fact that these guys were not from the US. What did Black folks from the UK sound like? I’d heard cats sample them; why not pick it up? I’m sure glad I did.
Cymande is Joey Dee and Ray King on vocals and percussion, Pablo Gonsales on congas, Sam Kelley on drums, Steve Scipio on bass, Patrick Patterson on guitar, Derek Gibbs on alto/soprano saxophone, Peter Serreo on tenor sax, and Mike Rose on alto, flute, and bongos. All members were from other groups and were discovered by producer John Schroder. They call their sound Nyah Rock, which is a blend of funk, jazz, soul, calypso, and reggae. Their songs have a noticeably positive vibe to them that speaks of culture, heritage, social issues, and love. They recorded three LP’s together then disbanded, later reuniting to play a show in the mid 2000’s. Much of their early work has been reissued and is now a treasure to new ears.
The song “Bird” reminds me of how I feel when I just want to be alone or get away. It has a solemn mood yet is full of strength and pride. The lyrics paint a picture of soaring, flying, and then suddenly you are brought back down to reality. Maybe someone’s bad vibes or criticism, but the song changes effortlessly like a topic of conversation. The song makes some of the most beautiful use of guitar, bass, and congas to ground it in what first feels like a stroll. When they play the other side of that coin, it gets faster with background vocals that feel frustrated and rushed. A very interesting composition in the moments of deep vocals and instrumental riffs — definitely a song to ride the train or the freeway to.
“Bird” by Cymande