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V/A - Cult Cargo: Belize City Boil Up

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Artist: V/A

Album: Cult Cargo: Belize City Boil Up

Label: The Numero Group

Review date: Sep. 27, 2005

Because no country in the western hemisphere has managed to maintain such careful obscurity and avoid infamy like Belize, the chances of you ever hearing any of Belize's incredible and diverse musical output are within a few tiny fractions short of zero.

Rob Sevier hits it neatly on the head with this statement from the liner notes of Cult Cargo: Belize City Boil Up, Numero Group's far out and nearly exhaustive compilation of music produced by the superstars of Belize, both in their native country and in the States, between 1967 and 1980. This collection doesn't make its case by neatly indexing national rhythms and dialects; instead, it showcases a sense of motion and entrepreneurial spirit through the external forces that imprinted themselves on the music of Belize itself: A hurricane; a frantic Diaspora to the major urban centers of the U.S.; disappointment with the racism and hardship unknown in the more homogenous homeland of the performers; and a slow, resigned return to the mother country.

The recordings themselves act as documents of the souvenirs that many of these Belizean musicians brought home, including a mastery of stateside rhythm and blues and the Latin styles of New York. Musical kingpin Gerald “Lord” Rhaburn not only seems to have dominated the musical golden age of Belize, but runs riot on this collection as well. The album begins with Rhaburn's most adventurous recording, “Disco Connection,” a crackling up-tempo instrumental bursting at the seems with clavichord and post-apocalypso horns, with all the soul and static of an Afro-Caribbean “Truck Turner.” Other tracks find Rhaburn in other moods, including “Boogaloo A La Chuck,” a seething boogaloo track that imagines a beachside summit of Sam the Sham and The Ventures, colliding in joyfully chaotic snare breaks beneath a fat but disciplined horn section.

Rhaburn's take on sweet Studio One style rockers, “More Love Reggae,” is only one of a few tracks bearing witness to the obvious influence that Jamaican music had on Belize. Other tunes, like the Harmonettes' “Can't Go Halfway,” reflect equal portions of American soul and the early ska sound of The Wailers.

Jesus Acosta and The Professionals check in with cuts covering every corner of soul, latin, and island music to sound in front of a microphone. “Guajida,” oddly – and perhaps mistakenly – attributed as a cover of Willie Bobo's “Guajira,” actually pre-imagines the montuno organ riff of Malo's “Cafe” (likely the best known Chicano rock song of the 1970s that didn't include Carlos Santana or War) by a solid 10 years, slathering the gritty tension of the rhythm section with a cushion of son-like horns. The Professionals also deliver a funky dub instrumental take with their version of “Theme From The Godfather,” as well as the oddly psychedelic soul of “A Part Of Being With You.”

Web's take on gut-busting R&B, “The Same Old Me,” out-Reddings everything in its path, and, like all of the songs here, brings to focus a lean but immensely earnest approach to music that, while it may not have originated in Belize, clearly benefited from the heart and sweat the artists on Belize City Boil Up brought to the game.

By Andy Freivogel

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