Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Darondo - Let My People Go (2006)

It’s hard for legitimately great music to stay hidden. Most “buried treasure” gains credibility simply by virtue of its age, giving us a whiff of an elusive past that we somehow missed the first time around, if not quite the same heady aroma of a true classic. Very rarely does a classic album—classic in terms of both vintage and status—appear out of thin air.

And yet that is exactly what Let My People Go has done. Like a magician pulling a previously-invisible rabbit out of his hat, the good folks at Luv N’Haight have given us an album of forgotten early ‘70s soul that legitimately deserves to share shelf space with the likes of Marvin Gaye, Al Green and James Brown. That may seem like a tall order, but Darondo is more than just a footnote. Even if his recorded output prior to this release was only six tracks, wow, what a six tracks they were!

In the early ‘70s, Darondo released three singles. That might look like a short sentence, but that was the story of his discography. He lived in the Bay Area and recorded with session men like guitarist Eddie Foster and producer Al Tanner. He opened for James Brown, hung with Sly Stone and Fillmore Slim. And then . . . well, sometime between now and then he found a wife in Fiji. Which should give you an idea of how far afield from the world of R&B superstardom he found himself.

And that was basically it. If it weren’t for the long memories of a few obsessive crate diggers who fondly remembered those three classic singles, Darondo would probably have faded from mere obscurity into total oblivion with the passage of time. But one of those crate diggers just happened to be a man named Gilles Peterson, who reintroduced Darondo to the world on 2005’s Gilles Peterson Digs America compilation. Do we owe the existence of this fine album to Peterson’s visionary trainspotting? Not being privy to the inner working of Luv N’Haight’s thought processes, I hesitate to say (the brief timeframe argues against it, despite the fact that both Peterson’s compilation and Let My People Go were published by Ubiquity)—but Peterson’s timely reintroduction definitely created an anticipation that would not have otherwise been present.

Let My People Go is composed of Darondo’s first three singles and three previously unreleased studio outtakes. Despite the slightly stapled-together nature of the compilation, it doesn’t lose anything in terms of cohesiveness. The unreleased tracks are easily of the same quality as the original singles—and with only nine songs to choose from, a sag in quality towards the end of the album would definitely stick out.

Didn't I

Listen to my song

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