Es are good, but I’ve only ever had a handful: Ebony Rhythm Funk Campaign’s Watchin’ You, Watchin’ Me; the first (and possibly only) Ecstasy Passion & Pain album; Donnie & Joe Emerson’s Dreamin’ Wild; Here Come The Warm Jets by Brian Eno, and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Eno & Byrne; an ESG compilation, and another by Evans Pyramid; Gloria Estefan’s Mi Tierra, and a brace by the cheerfully deranged Bahaman singer Exuma, who puts Dr John and Nick Cave to shame in the scary stakes.
I might as well start with guilty pleasure Mi Tierra, which I first heard at a jet-setting party in Zurich, darlings. It was the only album the hosts had (hard to believe, I know, but such people do exist!) so it got played over and over again, until the Latin rhythms began to percolate (permeate?) my caipirinha-addled brain and, like a Krautrock or Fela Kuti track that lasts half an hour, took hold of my very being and said “buy me, buy me!” so I did. It was a good party – I talked to (and then snogged) a half-German, half-Indian chemistry teacher called Pushpa, who later entered into a marriage of convenience with a homosexual colleague (nothing to do with my advances, I’m sure) and the host – whose name I forget – recommended that I go to Costa Rica, which, he assured me, had the most beautiful national parks, no army and English schools on the beach, which would be sure to offer me gainful employment. All true, as I subsequently found out, but they also had, by some weird kink of nature, the ugliest, most in-bred looking people on Earth, as if the population of Norfolk had been transplanted en masse to Central America.
Gloria Estefan is, of course, Cuban, not Costa Rican. She’s also a gusano, or worm, who fled the Revolution for Miami, one of the last three places on Earth I would EVER want to go (along with Las Vegas and Los Angeles). Obviously, there are other places which don’t even appear on the radar of possibility, like Mosel, and Riyadh, and Norfolk, but I’m not sure any of them is much worse than Miami.
Of the other Es I’ve imbibed, aurally, Ebony Rhythm Funk Campaign have a special place in my heart for their wittily-entitled 45, How’s Your Wife (& My Child)? which embodies the musical and lyrical spirit of cheesy 70s soul at its slow, two-stepping best.
Eno, with or without David Byrne, is of course a National Treasure. Donnie and Joe Emerson have languished in obscurity all their lives. They recorded a brilliant album of blue-eyed soul/pop in their garage as teenagers, which has now been rediscovered by the crate diggers (with the help of re-issue experts Light in the Attic) and the last I heard they’re recording a second one, although they are now fat and middle-aged.
ESG should, in my opinion, have gone by their real name of the Scroggins sisters but apart from that, can really do no wrong with their pared-to-the bone, attitudinous punk-funk. Here’s Moody, which is probably my favourite ESG track, recorded live in what looks like the 21st century and the now fifty-something Scroggins girls have still got it!
Finally, there’s Evans Pyramid, who gave the world Never Gonna Leave You, a dreamy, hypnotic disco groove with a yearning, melancholy vocal, that also takes hold of your very being in a Sunny Ade/Fela Kuti fashion. Mr Pyramid, otherwise known as Andre Evans, started life as a drummer, hanging out with musicians, among them Grant Green, “Brother” Jack McDuff, and Isaac Hayes. Eventually, he began recording his own songs, put out a handful of singles and a six-track LP, but stopped recording in 1994. Then another great re-issue label, Cultures of Soul, picked up Never Gonna Leave You and the rest – for us obscurity junkies – is underground disco history. Yes, Es really are good. Til next time, folks!
Dai the Llama’s verdict: Worms! Yuk! Arroz a la Cubana, that’s another matter. I’ve even been known to down a Cuba Libre de vez en cuando. I don’t really listen to music though. I’m much too busy reading (and writing) about the revolutionary struggle in Latin America. Check my life story out by clicking on Publications in the menu above.