Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Funky Nassau: The Compass Point Story 1980-1986

By Mat Strowbridge

Strut, out February 25th.

In a nutshell…

Distinctive and slow-paced 80s dub.

What's it all about?

A taster of works from the legendary Compass Point studio which, although hosting artists as diverse as The Rolling Stones, Bjork and Mariah Carey, is famed for its extended, dub mixes.

This collection might run at over an hour but it spans a broad enough range of flavours to keep your attention throughout. Whether it's early electro or bass-driven reggae that your looking for there are extracts of both smeared across the thirteen tunes here.

Who's it by?

Back when eight-tracks were still around and the handle-bar moustache was a sign of masculinity, Chris Blackwell set up his own studio in the Bahamas and invited all his friends over to play.

Since then the man who produced Bob Marley and founded Island records has gone on to bigger and better things but still the memory of the early Compass Point studios lives on.

These artists who passed through Blackwell's sacred hands include everyone from Grace Jones to Talking Heads and Sly Dunbar.

As an example...

"Whatcha gonna do when you get out of jail?/I'm gonna have some fun/What do you consider fun?/Fun, natural fun!" –Tom Tom Club – Genius Of Love (12" version)

What the others say

"It is a sound which defined an era… This was vibe music which has remained timeless on dancefloors ever since." –Underground Hip-Hop

"While the story of Compass Point is as rich as it is influential, something still puzzles me. Why no AC/DC? With Back in Black being recorded there in 1980, it would have only been right to include a piece from a project of that magnitude." –URB Magazine

So is it any good?

As a whole this is definitely a positive outing and yet track-by-track some of the tunes lack the certain calibre that you'd expect.

Given the number of quality Compass Point artists, why people like Guy Cuevas make it onto the record is confusing enough but even the chosen Talking Heads and Gwen Guthrie songs aren't as strong as they could have been.

This is a bitter let down and means things start to lag a little towards the half-hour point. The mood begins to feel uninspired and you'd be excused for thinking you were listening to some other mindless compilation.

However, Sly Dunbar's 'River Niger' is a signal for things to improve and the last five tracks come together well to be as good as anything elsewhere. Then, pair these with the offering from Tom Tom Club (their sound still so current it could easily be a new CSS jangle) and the peaks do eclipse the troughs.

In truth, it might not be a bad compilation but with a little more tweaking it's sad that this could have been a brilliant one.




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