On September 25, 2014, Cymande will appear at the Koko in London. The gig will be the first time that all of its original members have performed together in the U.K. since 1974. The group, named for the Calypso word for Dove and pronounced “sah-mahn-day,” blends together funk, jazz, calypso, African tribal music and reggae into a sound of music the group dubbed “Nyah Rock.” Due to the sampling of some their songs in recent times, Cymande’s reputation has grown larger and Cherry Red Records have recently reissued expanded edition of their three LPs: 1972’s Cymande, 1973’s Second Time Around and 1974’s Promised Heights.
In 1972, John Schroeder (a producer who wrote Helen Shapiro’s “Walking Back to Happiness” and also discovered the band that became Status Quo) walked into a Soho nightclub to discover new talent and found Cymande. The group (all hailing from islands in the Caribbean) had been founded a year earlier by Patrick Patterson (guitar) and Steve Scipio (bass). The pair was joined by Mike Rose (sax, flute, percussion), Sam Kelly (drums), Derek Gibbs (alto sax) and Pablo Gonzales (congas, bongos). A little later, vocalists Ray King and Joey Dee, plus saxophonists Peter Serreo and Desmond Atwell came onboard.
Schroeder took them into the studio to record their songs (most written by Paterson and Scipio but with contributions from others in the band; vocals alternated but predominantly featured Joey Dee) on what became their self-titled debut LP. He got them signed to Janus in the U.S., an imprint of Chess Records. A single of “The Message” was released and it climbed to the Top 50 on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at No. 20 on the R&B Chart. They began an American tour supporting Al Green and becoming the first British band to perform at the famed Apollo Theater.
Ironically, Cymande’s U.S. success didn’t translate to their U.K. home. In Britain, they mostly booked shows in clubs and their second LP in 1973 did not even get a British release. It did better in the U.S. and lead to another American tour where the band had reverted to its core of Patterson, Scipio, Rose, Kelly, Gonzales, Dee and Gibbs.
Cymande released a third and final record in 1974 (which did get issued in the U.K. on Contempo) but it fared poorer than its predecessors. The Nyah-rockers broke up in 1975 with a final single from their last recording session being released in 1976. The members went their separate ways, some into music and others into other pursuits. Some have formed together for various Cymande tributes over the years. In 1981, Paterson produced what was called “a new Cymande project” entitled Arrival, but it is not considered part of the band’s official release canon.
After the jump: more on Cymande, including the complete track listings for all three titles plus order links!
Cymande might have been forgotten to all except collectors over the years if not for hip-hop. Artists ranging from De La Soul to Grandmaster Flash to the Fugees have all sampled “Bra” from Cymande and director Spike Lee used it in his 1994 film Crooklyn. Several other of Cymande’s songs began to be sampled and used in movie, TV and theater projects. This led to a resurgence of interest in the group and in 2010, Paterson, Scipio, Kelly, Rose, Gibbs and Gonzales reformed the band. Along with John Schroeder, they recorded a new album which was completed in 2012 but is still awaiting release. In addition, they will soon begin performing live shows together again.
Cherry Red’s new reissues add bonus tracks to each of the three albums. Cymande adds 7” mixes of “The Message” and “Bra”, Second Time Around does the same for “Fug” and “Anthracite” while Promised Heights includes additional songs “Friends”, “Love Will Really Get Going” and “Mighty Heavy Load.” All three albums feature new liner notes which can be read as one continuous chronicle of the band’s career. Cymande includes a 1999 remembrance by John Schroeder. Second Time Around and Promised Heights feature a new 10-page essay split between the two albums (although the notes for Second Time seem to correspond with Promised, and vice versa, on our copies). Second Time Around also features a reprint of an article from a 1973 issue of Blues and Soul magazine about the band. In addition, each album features a handy U.S. and U.K. Cymande discography. The three CDs have been newly remastered by Nick Watson at Fluid Mastering.
If you’ve heard samples of their songs or want to reacquaint yourself with Cymande, these new reissues of their three albums in their original form are for you! All three reissues are available now and can be ordered at the links below!
- Zion 1
- One More
- Getting It Back
- The Message
- Ras Tafarian Folk Song
- The Message (7” Mix) (from Janus Single J 203)
- Bra (7” Mix) (from Janus Single J 215)
- Willie’s Headache
- To You
- For Baby Ooh
- Them and Us
- Fug (7” Mix) (from Janus Single J 225)
- Anthracite (7” Mix) (from Janus Single J 225)
- Pon De Dungle
- Equatorial Forest
- Brothers on the Slide
- Promised Heights
- Losing Ground
- The Recluse
- Friends (From UK Alaska Single ALA 1021, 1976)
- Our Love Will Really Get Going (Unreleased originally, appeared on Sequel CD NEECD 304, 1999)
- Mighty Heavy Load (Unreleased originally, appeared on Sequel CD NEECD 304, 1999)