20th Century Steel Band: Warm Heart, Cold Steel (Mr Bongo)

 |   |  1 min read

20th Century Steel Band: Heaven and Hell
20th Century Steel Band: Warm Heart, Cold Steel (Mr Bongo)

The fate of this reissue by a mid Seventies steel band from the UK (in disco-funk outfits) is probably going to be on one of those summertime radio programmes where wild'n'crazy hosts play odd versions of big hits. And this group can certainly oblige because here are steel band treatments of the theme to Shaft, Papa Was a Rolling Stone, a dramatically brooding spoken-word version of Standing in the Shadows of Love and a party-down Land of a Thousand Dances.

All good fun -- and there are certainly tracks here (notably the cute Bonnie-and-Clyde-inna-poolside bar Lazy Days, the familiar Loues Theme and Dance Away) which sound like they have been beamed in from a band in some chintzy hotel forecourt in the touristy Caribbean.

With vocals and percussion alongside the steel pans, this is enjoyable stuff. 

But the key track here -- in the original five minute version and the 3.30 single edit -- is Heaven and Hell which has (I believe) been sampled by J.Lo, Black Eyed Peas and LL Cool J among others. It is pure Afro-funk soul with a period-piece falsetto by mainman Michael Olivier, distant pans and chant-like backing vocals, with a mesmerising and rolling beat. At times it suggests Dr John's smoke-filled voodoo-funk, at others a nyabinghi chant with a bit of Motown soul over the top.

Heaven and Hell is a killer cut and if the rest of the album only provides the soundtrack to a barbecue or those wacky-guy radio shows, it is worth the price of admission to hear this peculiar classic.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

The Dead C:  Secret Earth (Ba Da Bing)

The Dead C: Secret Earth (Ba Da Bing)

Let it be said immediately The Dead C out of Port Chalmers are a taste that few have acquired: dense, often lo-fi guitar landscapes of scouring sound, feedback and distortion probably don't make it... > Read more

Lizz Wright: The Orchard (Verve)

Lizz Wright: The Orchard (Verve)

We aren't short of soulful women singers right now, but few deliver with such blues gravitas and sensual authority as this Georgia-raised New Yorker whose two previous albums on Verve announced her... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

GUEST WRITER VIKY GARDEN is confronted by the work of painter Otto Dix

GUEST WRITER VIKY GARDEN is confronted by the work of painter Otto Dix

The paintings of Otto Dix are as unrelentingly abrasive as a mincing machine. It’s the kind of art you get when society is forced through a sieve then put under a microscope. It’s... > Read more

THE ROLLING STONES, a photo book from TASCHEN (2014): Rolling out the Stones again

THE ROLLING STONES, a photo book from TASCHEN (2014): Rolling out the Stones again

Wrapped in a cover from the evocative shoot on Primrose Hill in 1966 by Gerard Mankowitz -- which gave the band their Between the Buttons album cover -- this high-end, 600 page photo-history of the... > Read more