Various Artists

West Indies Funk

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Puerto Rico's Trans Air imprint scored big with both critics, DJs, and dance music fans with their Disco "O" Lypso compilation which featured a stellar selection of nasty, summery Caribbean disco nuggets. They follow it up nicely here with West Indies Funk, a collection of vintage '70s bass-, break-, and organ-driven grooves with just the right amounts of brass, guitars, and (occasionally) steel drums to make things more exciting and exotic. There is little info on the sleeve other than artist and title, but the sound quality on this stuff -- available on CD and LP -- is tops; Trans Air claims these masters come from original analog tapes, and who are we to doubt them? While there isn't a weak moment in this 11-tune set, there are some clear standouts, like the hard-driven "No Names Bar" by the Troubadours that EQs electric guitars and a horn chart right up in the mix with the breaks, nasty fuzzed-out bassline, and B-3; the saxophone and guitar solos push it over the edge into hot 'n' sweaty territory. Syd Jones & the Troubadours come off sounding like a Caribbean version of the Meters on "Cardova." Willie Dickson & the Playboys cover James Brown's "Lickin' Stick" with a soulful vocal. Speaking of covers, the Esse Trinidad Steel Band scores big with an excellent cover of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back," and yes, the steel drums work, spectacularly! More surreal is the Dutch Rhythm, Steel & Showband's souled-out version of Neil Young's "Down by the River" with rumbling congas and timbales, and plucked bass and wah-wah organ aiding the vocal and screaming guitar. St. Vincent's Supersound Latinaires Orchestra has two tracks here and they're both burners, though "Roasted or Fried" is the clear winner. For groove junkies, West Indies Funk is an indispensable compilation.

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