VARIOUS: ‘Funky Nassau – The Compass Point Story 1980-1986’ (Label: Strut)

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VARIOUS: 'Funky Nassau - The Compass Point Story 1980-1986'

In the early ’80s, I was listening to a lot of records emanating from Chris Blackwell’s Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas. Blackwell, of course, was the boss of Island Records back then – before it was devoured by the voracious Universal group – and his roster at that time included an eclectic mix of artists, ranging from reggae icon, Bob Marley, and Irish post-punk band, U2, to ex-Vinegar Joe man Robert Palmer, singer/songwriter John Martyn and US new wavers, the B-52s. Most of all, it was Blackwell’s interest in black music – and particularly reggae – that interested me. As well as Bob Marley, Blackwell’s roster included reggae trio, Black Uhuru, ex-model-turned-singer and soon-to-be actress Grace Jones, Stateside soul singer Gwen Guthrie and Scottish dance/funk group, Set The Tone. Many of the records by those acts were cut at Compass Point, where the house band was built around the solid, in-the-pocket grooves laid down by the legendary twosome comprising bassist Robbie Shakespeare and drummer Sly Dunbar. As this fascinating compilation on the re-activated Strut label illustrates, the grooves coming out of Compass Point were tough, sinewy and bass-heavy and often fused with the experimentalism and post-new wave sensibilities of idiosyncratic acts like Talking Heads (the group’s funk-fuelled ‘Born Under Punches’ is included here). The set kicks off with the extended version of Grace Jones’s jaunty ‘My Jamaican Guy’ and includes Tom Tom Club’s seminal proto hip-hop groove, ‘Genius Of Love’ as well as Larry Levan’s mix of Gwen Guthrie’s dance floor classic, ‘Padlock.’ Set The Tone – a group that was hyped-up beyond belief and still failed to deliver the goods in terms of sales – are represented by the Francois Kevorkian mix of their single ‘Dance Sucker.’ Of the oddities that were recorded at Compass Point, you’ll find Ian Dury and The Blockheads’ controversial ‘Spasticus Autisticus’ and a dub version of Will Powers’ ‘Adventures In Success.’ Listeners fascinated by early ’80s dance music will find much to interest them here in this richly variegated collection.
(CW) 3/5