gullbuy music review

The Esso Trinidad Steelband


The Esso Trinidad Steelband




Esso Trinidad Steelband CD coverThe Esso Trinidad Steelband is a reissue of the second album by this band, which was produced by Van Dyke Parks, and originally came out in 1971.

The record was licensed from Warner Brothers Inc. by a new division of US indie label Birdman Records, best known (to me at least) as the label that puts out Billy Childish projects here in the US.

The Esso Trinidad Steelband consists of 23 players using hammered out oil drums originally used for Esso petroleum, who used Trinidad ports as docking areas. When the conglomerate learned that this band existed, they decided to sponsor the band to foster positive PR, in a rare example of right thinking by big business.

Van Dyke Parks said of the band, "This is the greatest group I've ever had the privilege to produce." The record has 12 tracks, many of them covers. There are both vocal tracks and instrumentals.

The vocal tracks are Apeman (Kinks), Ride On Sammy, Cecilia (Simon & Garfunkel), I Want You Back (Jackson 5), Come to the Sunshine, Erasmus B. Black (The Mighty Sparrow), If I Had Wings (like a dove), and Singer Man.

The instrumentals are If You Let Me Make Love To You Why Can't I Touch You?, Simple Calypso, Sabre Dance, and Aquarium.

The Esso Trinidad Steelband were not mild mannered tools of a mega-corporation. Check out the lyrics to Erasmus B. Black (read: "Your ass must be black") printed in the CD booklet.

The sound of a well played steel drum is quite special. The Esso Trinidad Steelband's treatment of Sabre Dance is amazing. You might not know that track by name, but you will recognize it as a TV shopping theme from the 60s. Likewise with Aquarium, which sounds like it was used in the cinema adaptation of Jules Verne's '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.'

It is a joy to listen to this record. While the sound of steel drums may overwhelm you as you absorb this disc in one listen, many of the tracks will leave a lasting impression if given the chance.

---Carl, August 19, 2003