Most Wanted! Cymande – The Message (Janus Records)
More than 40 years have gone since Cymande‘s ‘The Message’ first came to attention. And referring to its lyrics, doesn’t feel like things have really changed at the end. This somehow suggesting as to how humanity decidedly likes playin’ a dangerous game. “Don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge. I’m trying not to lose my head. It’s like a jungle sometimes. It makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under…”
From their 1972 eponymous debut-album, this British Jazz/Funk band pretty much delivered their biggest classic ever. This along with ‘Brothers On The Slide’. If not ‘Bra’ or ‘Dove’. Most likely setting the staples for the rare groove scene which would make noise in the London and NYC club scene by the end of the second half of the eighties.
Their music would get an extra regain of notoriety while sampled by Hip-Hop artists on both sides of the Atlantic. From De La Soul, Grandmaster Flash and Kool Herc Stateside to MC Solaar in France who sampled ‘The Message’ on the memorable ‘Bouge de là’ back in 1990…
Cymande’s longevity and success have been achieved by their totally original style and exclusively self-penned songs. What made them so apart is their penchant for blending the diverse strands of Reggae and Rastafarian rhythms with Funk, Soul, R&B, Jazz, Rock, African music and West Indian Folk. The Music of Cymande conveys a true spirit of togetherness. The band’s emblem, which incorporates a dove symbolizing peace and love, aptly speaking for itself.
Steve Scipio and Patrick Patterson gave birth to Cymande more than 45 years ago. The band was made up of nine self-taught Caribbean born, London-based musician and singers.
In 1971, the group met John Schroeder, Cymande’s longstanding producer, in a basement club in Soho. The rapport was immediate. Schroeder recollecting “an atmosphere of electric excitement”. Together, they became totally immersed, hour after hour from rehearsal rooms to recording studio, honing their distinctive style.
At the 1972 MIDEM in Cannes, Schroeder introduced Marvin Schlacter, Chess/Janus Records CEO to two of Cymande’s recordings. This led to a request by the latter for enough material to fill an album. And so, the eponymous ‘Cymande’ album came to light. Eventually becoming the fastest selling record on the Chess/Janus label.
‘The Message’ b/w ‘Zion 1’ was the first single to appear. Its success triggered a whirlwind of events, with Bob Schwald appointed as Cymande’s U.S. Manager. With solid airplay and a very complimentary U.S. Music Press, the band soon achieved the rare distinction of listings in all 3 of the key U.S. national Charts (Jazz, R&B and Pop).
Easy to listen and dance to, yet full of emotion and meaning, Cymande’s music arrived Stateside with some considerable force…
An invitation to tour with Al Green followed quickly, leading to frantic rehearsals, jangled nerves. And, the band who used to play before crowds of up to 300 people, started performing at giant venues across the U.S.
The Tour was a huge success, and demand grew for more material. Cymande returned to their hometown. There, they went straight back into the studio to record their second album, ‘Second Time Round’.
Consolidating the success and acceptance of the band in America, a second U.S. Tour followed. But this time Cymande headlined it themselves. The ultimate compliment!
They went on to tour, sharing the headline with countless luminaries. From Jerry Butler to Patti LaBelle, Billy Preston and Ramsey Lewis. To Edwin Starr, KC & The Sunshine Band, Kool & The Gang and Mandrill among others.
They made history by becoming the first British band to perform at the world renowned Apollo Theatre in Harlem, NY.
While on tour, ‘Bra’, their follow-up single to ‘The Message’, moved up the charts. The idea of recording a third album came to mind. Cymande recorded it in Chicago at the Chess/Janus Studios. A location where artists such as Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry and The Rolling Stones had previously recorded. But while the band embraced the opportunity and enjoyed the sights and sounds of Chicago, the frantic pace of their meteoric rise in the U.S. finally caught up with them.
Musically, the magic remained, yet (cf. ‘Brothers On The Slide’). But the tell-tale signs of tiredness, tetchiness and being away from home for long periods of time began to show.
The 3rd album, ‘Promised Heights’, saw the light in 1974, through Contempo Records in England, where hindsight has shown that their music arrived in the U.K. long before it’s time. The group stopped performing the year after though.
Cymande’s legacy stands strong, with a large cult following both in the U.K. and Stateside. They are one of the most sampled Black British bands of all time. The music of Cymande heavily influenced the Rare Groove/Deep House scene of the 1980’s. And sampling by Hip-Hop, House and R&B music artists including De La Soul, Wu-Tang Clan or The Fugees continues today. Not to mention French Hip-Hopper MC Solaar who came to deliver one of his biggest classics by the likes of ‘Bouge de là’ back in 1990.
Steve and Patrick have continued to write music throughout the interim period. In 2010, they called the original core band members, their producer and sound engineer back together to explain their new vision. In 2011, they reunited and, with just as much enthusiasm as the first time, they began rehearsals. This therefore resulting in the release of their 4th album – ‘A Simple Act Of Faith’ – back in November 2015.