Tag Archives: soul

Heal thyself: Cymande




Just the first day of the working week and one’s soul and body is already aching. No complaints, mind. Just a cold assessment of the current reality. Several more similarly long and full days await until the weekend arrives and I depart on another trip. This time to my favorite part of the world, India. Mumbai for a couple of short weekend days and then the nation’s capital for meetings and hopefully a bit of down time to stalk through the streets with all my senses open to ‘receptive’.


One does find there are days and weeks of days when despair and sadness are hard to keep at bay. What with all the shit happening in the Middle East and the suffering and rudeness of the ruling classes towards anyone who is not one of ‘us’ is enough to make the heart break.

When I get into those kind of places I generally find a long walk outside followed by a cold beer and some fine tunes return my inner barometer to the normal range. And over the weekend the tunes I turned to were from an old band with the slightly hard to pronounce name of Cymande (Shamaanday).

I used to spy this album in record stores years back and inevitably paused to take in the intriguing cover art. There was something just off beat enough about it to want me to try it out but of course I would opt for the more familiar product. In those days of youth when one is supposed to be full of adventure, I have to confess my musical tastes were firmly unadventerous. But let’s not look back.

Except perhaps to give praise. And much praise is due to these chaps with the unusual name. A group of West Indian immigrants in the UK, Cymande mixed together reggae, proto-dub, funk, sweet soul harmonies and a righteous message on their very limited number of records.   Except for a tiny number of music snobs, club hounds and critics the records didn’t get much uptake; the band disbanded in the late 70s.

Rediscovered by samplers a number of decades on, Cymande has probably reached a wider audience in the past 20 years then they ever did in their heyday.

This is very groovy music. Listen. And you’ll instantly be aware of its healing qualities. The deep throbbing bass shakes the blues loose (or perhaps packs it further down?) and slowly draws you to surrender.   Like a musical body tonic, Cymande, are an elixir.

Heal thyself!

The Message

Track Listing:

01 Zion I

02 One More

03 Getting It Back

04 Listen

05 Rickshaw

06 Dove

07 Bra

08 The Message

09 Rastafarian Folk Song



Philadelphia Positivity: Billy Paul


Billy Paul had a big hit in 1972, Me and Mrs. Jones. Of course, I should qualify that statement. It was a ‘big’ hit and the one that is always remarked on because it registered in white pop consciousness, rather than only in the African-American charts. Beside that song, Billy Paul, one of Philadelphia’s great crooners chocked up many hits on the R&B charts in the four decades of his career.


He’s a versatile and lively voice who sang with such giants as Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, it is a pity that he’s not so appreciated by white audiences as say Stevie Wonder or Ray Parker Jr..  As a youngster, I always saw his albums in the shops but had neither the adventurous spirit nor fiscal means to try him out. Poor me!


Billy Paul

Billy Paul

Today’s selection, Got My Head on Straight, has insinuated itself into my ‘all time favorites’ category.  It’s an offering of that wonderfully lush Philadelphia International sound, which in the 1970s took off where Motown ran out of steam.  Exemplified by great classics sides recorded by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes and the The Ojays, the Philly sound was not just full of groove but swirled with rich orchestral arrangements that few other regional sounds have been able to emulate.  And there was a positivity of message too.  James Brown and Nina Simone sang about being black and proud but Billy Paul and his Philadelphia colleagues wrapped everything in positive vibes.


And in addition to the sometime funky other time luxurious sounds of this record, I can’t recall a more ‘feel good’ album. Ever.  And before you move on to the next blog or Youtube video, let me say, ‘feel good in the good sense.’  This is not a sentimental record nor are the ideas Diet-Coke bubbles.  It is simply infectious. A man who obviously LOVES life, whether its singing about summer’s warm weather, coming home to his lover or even, I dare say, death! Essentially, Brother Billy, tells us life is what you make of it. You’ve got a choice.  You can’t avoid the shit. The dying. Change. The broken hearts.  But you can choose to be Enlightened, Truthful and you can have your head on straight. If you like.  And if by the end of his record you’re not smiling and looking at your prospects with more optimism, then sue God.


Fantastic, mid-1970s American soul music of the highest order!  A perfect way to start the day!

Got My Head On Straight

Track Listing:

01 July, July, July, July

02 Billy’s back home

03 I’ve got so much to live for

04 My head’s on straight

05 Enlightenment

06 When it’s your time to go

07 Be truthful to me

08 Everything must change

09 Black wonders of the world