Various Artists

Cult Cargo: Belize City Boil Up

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In Belize, "boil up" is a traditional stew made out of such ingredients as pigs tails, bananas, eggs, plantains, yams, and whole fish. As the liner notes point out, it's an apt metaphor for the music contained in this delightfully quirky compilation -- though the musical recipe adds up to something that many will probably find much more enticing than a stew made out of bananas and fish. The Belizean music scene of the 1960s and '70s was greatly enriched by the scattering of refugees to the U.S. following Hurricane Hattie in 1961. Aching for music from home, members of the Belizean diaspora created a demand for home-grown recordings in a variety of styles, all of them imbued with a certain Belizean something -- and bands like the Professionals, the Rhaburn Ensemble and the Harmonettes rushed to fill the void with R&B, soul, reggae, calypso, and Latin 45s that sound utterly of their era, but feature something just a bit different around the edges of their sound as well. The Harmonettes' version of Johnny Nash's "Can't Go Halfway" is a bit too fast for reggae and a bit to hard-edged for ska; the Rhaburn Ensemble's rendition of Wilson Pickett's "Don't Fight It" has a slippery drum beat that sounds a bit like something from New Orleans and a rubbery guitar part that hints at rocksteady; the Professionals' take on the theme from The Godfather is spooky and weird, with a buzzsaw guitar poking relentlessly at a haunted-house Farfisa organ -- also, it's the theme from The Godfather, which fact is spooky and weird enough. There's no denying the kitsch element to these recordings, but many of them succeed without irony in their own right, and the whole album will be a sure-fire hit at any hipster party. Excellent.

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