Going Places: The August Darnell Years 1974-1983
By BEN RATLIFF
Published: April 13, 2008
Four years ago â€” which feels like a decade ago â€” the blissful early-disco love song â€œSunshower,â€ from 1976, by Dr. Buzzardâ€™s Original Savannah Band got unearthed for the chorus of an M.I.A. hip-hop track, â€œSunshowers.â€ It was great appropriation, but something more was in order. Finally, this is it: â€œGoing Places: The August Darnell Years 1974-1983â€ (Strut), a retrospective of great ideas by Mr. Darnell. He was a musician and songwriter; one of the minds behind Dr. Buzzard; later the full inventor and lead persona of Kid Creole and the Coconuts; and a sort of house producer at Ze Records, a bizarre and fruitful New York art-pop label in the late â€™70s and â€™80s. Born in Canada, raised in the Bronx, half French-Canadian and half Haitian, Mr. Darnell had an outsiderâ€™s fascination and an insiderâ€™s discernment about New York life. At their best the tracks collected here are smart, mysterious and outrageous polyglot disco. Sung by a succession of women with exaggerated voices, they refer to Tin Pan Alley and funk and jazz and salsa and rock; theyâ€™re slightly messy and full of absurd historical caricature â€” of cowboys and Indians, tropical languor, New York hustle. Naturally Mr. Darnell became drawn into musical theater, but you can even imagine his vision filling a novel or a film. Itâ€™s an ongoing, ever-relevant picaresque.