Various Artists

Explorer Series: The Bahamas - The Real Bahamas

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While this isn't actually a Joseph Spence album, it might as well be, since he and his extended family play a big part on this disc, starting with the very first track. Recorded in 1966 (although Spence's "Don't Take Everybody to Be Your Friend" was actually recorded in the U.S. during Spence's first tour), it's a revelation in the way the spiritual is used, its cadences and arrangements much more African than American -- a distance of 200 miles can make a lot of difference. The "rhyming spirituals" of the Bahamas are especially evident on tracks like "I Am So Glad," where the three voices create a remarkably full sound. Spence himself was already a known quantity when this disc was made (he was first recorded eight years before), but artists like Frederick McQueen were real discoveries, and Edith Pinder (Spence's sister) proved to be a revelation -- with Spence's guitar playing and odd vocalizations behind her as idiosyncratic as ever. The material is all religious, concluding with "I Bid You Goodnight," a sublime song also found in England, but never in an arrangement like this.

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