Cymande - A Simple Act of Faith (2015)

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Cymande - A Simple Act of Faith

The band Cymande recorded their last album 41 years ago, but music fans have had plenty of chances to hear the group’s music over the past four decades. Of course, most of those fans probably didn’t know that they were listening to the British funk band. Rap artists and hip-hop producers helped ensure that music fans continued to hear Cymande’s music through sampling.

Cymande - A Simple Act of Faith

The band Cymande recorded their last album 41 years ago, but music fans have had plenty of chances to hear the group’s music over the past four decades. Of course, most of those fans probably didn’t know that they were listening to the British funk band. Rap artists and hip-hop producers helped ensure that music fans continued to hear Cymande’s music through sampling.

“Dove,” a cut from Cymande’s 1972 debut album, has been sampled no fewer than 16 times, most notably by Wu-Tang on “Problems” and by The Fugees on the title track of their 1996 classic album, The Score (“Dove” was an appropriate name for that song, because the word Cymande is a Calypso derivative of the dove and symbolizes peace and love). Other hip-hop acts have sampled Cymande songs such as “Brothers on the Slide,” and “Bra,” and after reacquainting myself with “Dove” it’s easy to see why. “Dove” has a slow groove propelled by an insistent bass line, Afro-Caribbean percussion and a buzzing guitar solo that remains in the listener’s head.

The principals who were the driving force behind the Cymande sound between 1971 and 1974 – mainly Steve Scipio (bass, vocals), Patrick Patterson (guitar, vocals), Sam Kelly (drums), Mike Rose (sax, flute, percussion), Pablo Gonzalez (percussion, vocals), Derrick Gibbs (sax), and producer John Schroeder - had been trying to work the logistics of reuniting back in 2012, and the group got back together in 2014 to tour, and they are now releasing the album A Simple Act of Faith, their first in 41 years.

The 10 tracks on A Simple Act of Faith find Cymande returning to their trademark sound of funk infused with Afro-Caribbean sounds such as reggae and Calypso. Thematically, the record ranges freely from spiritual themes tunes such as “Everybody Turn Rasta,” “No Weeping” and “God’s Highway” to the socially concerned “Crazy Game,” which is an anti-violence anthem. The largely instrumental “A Moment for Reflection” could fit in nicely at a stepper’s set while the title track is a tender and sensual ballad that describes a bedroom scene -- not in the explicit terms that are so often used in music, but rather in the spiritual way that exists when two people choose to totally trust. In that case, love is indeed a simple act of faith.

“Crazy Game,” with a narrative detailing the impact of the senseless violence that afflicts poor people in locales similar to the places where members of Cymande trace their roots (as well as in communities in this country), stands as a highlight. Lyrically strong, “Crazy Game” sets up the brutal impact of the often senseless violence from the opening line: “Got news of a shooting today/Another young life blown away/Seems we’re caught up in a firestorm/Two mothers wonder what went wrong.”

“All or Nothing” is a mid-tempo funk number that features call and response choral styling, a jumping bass line, and flourishes of Afro-Caribbean styled brass, while “God’s Highway” sandwiches a percussive reggae beat between a pipe organ introduction and ending.

Four decades is a long time-lapse between performance dates and studio work, and the Cymande we hear on A Simple Act of Faith differs from the group that was sweeping 10 minute opuses such as “Dove.” Yet, it’s easy to see a music junkie hip-hop artist such as Drake or Kanye looking to A Simple Act of Faith because there is ample material to sample. Let’s hope that music fans take time to enjoy the latest by Cymande on their own terms. Recommended

By Howard Dukes

 
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