@1970 Holland Pressing
Exuma’s debut album was a real odd piece of work, even by the standards of the late ’60s and early ’70s, when major labels went further out on a limb to throw weird stuff at the public to see what would stick than they ever had before or have since. Roughly speaking, it’s kind of like a combination of the Bahamian folk of Joseph Spence with early Dr. John at his most voodooed-out, though even that nutshell doesn’t really do justice to how unusual this record is. Often it seems more like eavesdropping on a tribal ritual than listening to songs. Some of the tracks, indeed, have little or less to do with conventional “songs” than with tunes and lyrics; they’re more akin to Mardi Gras street percussion jams airlifted to the Caribbean islands. Exuma and his accompanists make quite a spooky clamor with their various bells, foot drums, chanting, gasps, sighs, shouts, and other percussive instruments, creating a mood both celebratory and scary.
He’s not totally averse to using more standard song forms, though, singing about “zombies walking in the broad daylight” in “Mama Loi, Papa Loi”; devising a simple, fairly singable soul melody for “You Don’t Know What’s Going On,” his most famous song due to its inclusion in the movie Joe; and setting “The Vision” to an appealing, if again quite simple, folk melody. Exuma’s rough, unschooled vocals cut off any prospect of mainstream accessibility, but they get the job done in getting both his uplifting and ominous spirituality over. It’s a little surprising that this stuff hasn’t undergone a sizable cult revival;