Monday, May 21, 2018

SPAZ reviews KID CREOLE & THE COCONUTS on Cherry Red!



When August Darnell transformed himself into Kid Creole for 1980’s OFF THE COAST OF ME, he was already a music industry veteran, spending time as a member of DR. BUZZARD’S ORIGINAL SAVANNAH BAND alongside his brother Stony Browder, Jr. Darnell’s blending of musical genres – Salsa, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, Funk and Swing – initially confused lovers of Top 40 but was embraced by the quirky New Wave kids. Within a few years, Kid Creole & The Coconuts were scoring hits in Europe but were looked upon as a ‘novelty’ band in the U.S. By 1984, KC&TC finally scored a hit in the States with “My Male Curiosity” (from the AGAINST ALL ODDS soundtrack) and it seemed as if radio programmers finally understood where August Darnell was coming from, musically. Sadly, the band’s next batch of albums didn’t set the charts on fire and by 1989, even with the support of their new label home, Columbia, their future as hitmakers seemed bleak. Even faithful sidekick and lucky charm Coati Mundi had moved on. Thankfully, Prince stepped in and offered the band a track called “The Sex of It.” The song was another hit for the band and gave them a much-needed commercial boost. And that is where Cherry Red’s two CD Kid Creole release – PRIVATE WATERS IN THE GREAT DIVIDE/YOU SHOULDA TOLD ME YOU WERE… - comes in.

PRIVATE WATERS IN THE GREAT DIVIDE was scheduled for release in 1989 but when Prince offered up his song, “The Sex of It,” Columbia Records decided to hold the album so that they could add the song to the track listing. “The Sex of It” was an unreleased Prince recording that Darnell added his vocals to yet it worked well within the context of KC&TC’s unique world groove style. The funky guitars ‘n’ bass and the Swing horn swirls – staples of the Kid Creole sound – were mixed with the distinct Prince style, creating something different enough without deviating too far from Darnell’s musical vision. The rest of the album – like their three previous full lengths – traveled familiar Kid Creole ground, moving away from the full band vibe and embracing then-modern recording technology. Programmed rhythms had replaced live drums and while that ‘band playing in the room together’ vibe was missing, the songs were catchy and certainly great additions to the KC&TC catalog. “I Love Girls,” “Takin’ A Holiday,” “Corey’s Song,” “He’s Takin’ The Rap,” “(No More) Casual Sex,” and “Pardon My Appearance” are highlights but there’s more where that come from. Disc One on this two CD set features the full album alongside the non-album “Ode to A Coloured Man” and mixes of “I Love Girls” and “The Sex Of It.”

1991’s YOU SHOULDA TOLD ME YOU WERE… continues where PRIVATE WATERS left off: post-Prince funkiness with Darnell’s distinct (and magical) touch. Again, the album relies on studio technology over band dynamics but the songs are still undeniably catchy. There are some fantastic Pop moments on this, their eighth album, including “My Soul Intention” and “(She’s A) Party Girl” (both of which recall 1985’s “(Darlin’ You Can) Take Me”). However, Darnell’s funky Latin R&B world groove tendencies get a workout on tracks like “It’s Automatic,” “Oh Marie,” and “Baby Doc.” “Your Move!” trades on late ‘80s R&B tropes while adding that Darnell magic. “Something Incomplete,” “How Can I Forget You? (The Benediktion),” and “Consequently” show the softer side of the Kid’s sound. “Madison Avenue” sounds like it was lifted from one of the band’s early albums yet fits perfectly amongst these tracks. Disc Two of this set features the entirety of this album with no bonus material.

For nearly 40 years, Kid Creole & The Coconuts have created music that is meant to engage the listener and these two albums do just that. Whether the songs make you dance, think, laugh or sing along, this double disc set is a party in your pants!

Keep on truckin',
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

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