Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band 55

Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band 55
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The Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band are an offshoot of German deep funksters the Mocambos, formed to showcase guitarist and bandleader Bjorn Wagner's prowess with the steel pan drum.
 
Comprised of nearly half cover songs, 55 might sound on the surface like a novelty project, but dig on the opening track, a cover of 50 Cent's "P.I.M.P." that originally surfaced in 2009, and it's immediately apparent that Wagner (who spent several months in Trinidad learning the instrument) is serious in taking the music into new, more groove-centric territory. Covers of Faith Evans's "Love Like This" and DJ Hi-Tek's "Round & Round" keep the nod to hip-hop and modern R&B flowing; the former builds on the unforgettable Bernard Edward bass line that anchored the original, while the latter sways like palm trees on a balmy night.
 
Of the set's covers, "Was Dog A Doughnut?" is the most inventive, as the minimalist electronics of the Cat Stevens original are transformed into a hypnotizing, humid hip-swayer, equal parts TK-era Miami disco and narcotic Latin-funk. Original cuts, like the intense, carnival inspired bacchanalia of "Laventille Road March" and the sly break beat and greasy, horn-driven boogie of "Port Of Spain Hustle," are potent examples of the group's lockstep rhythmic dexterity.
 
While the inclusion of the two highly collectible 2007 Meters covers that got this enterprise under way would have been nice inclusions, and "P.I.M.P" is pointlessly remixed at the end, 55 is an ideal summer party starter. (Big Crown Records)