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First Serenade band of old
First Serenade band of old

Simple captioned "Serenade and Friends" the Serenade Band after a hiatus of about a decade, in their 35th year has released a 12-track recording in which it experimented with several rhythms while maintaining their famous groove.

Known for its spicy Bouyon rhythms and as the biggest contributors (apart from WCK) to the beat, Serenade has now fused the elder players with a new generation of musicians. Adrien "Archie" Mitchell, composer, recording engineer, band leader and one of the formative members is still very much involved though he has retreated to the background with the pen and the mixer boards giving greater prominence to Dean Alexander to pull he strings. Manager, trumpeter, composer and occasional vocalist Carton" Carlty" Winston who really has been the backbone of the band together with Archie is still there with veteran member and trombonist Christopher Dangleben who ably serves as PRO. One of Dominica's most experienced guitarists who have over four decades played for the Swinging Stars, Ignitions and many other groups is Kelvin "Buggie" Dubuisson; he is another stalwart whom the 1st Serenade has maintained in their musical armory for many years.

Dominica's most energetic front man, Lloyd " Loydie" Jno Baptiste is on lead vocals, a position he shares with female calypsonian Alisha Ducreay since the resurgence which saw them establishing themselves as winners and runners up of the NCCU Cadence competition. Meanwhile Ellis Harris plays keyboards and drum programming and Ursan Tavernier serves as drummer.

The album quite appropriately released for carnival begins with a Calypso medley featuring Hurricane's- Utility Pressure and Humpty Dumpy; Lagoom Spirit's – Hold my ting and do Something; Everlasting's –Riot Declare; Spider's- Moko Jumbie and Zye's – Donkey Ting.

"Real Jouvert", and "Are you ready" are two original Bouyon tracks composed by Carlty and Rhamadin Prince respectively as Serenade attempts to solidify its presence with" who say we ca make dem jump up" punctuated by short punchy brass.

"We Lead and the Others Follow" and "Nah Break us" is another such attempt (too much in my opinion) to 'big up' the band and re-energize its once massive fan base. The latter is a cover version, not without some adaptation, of Matthew Wilder's 1980s hit song.

"Alive and Kicking" is the assurance given by lead vocalist Lloydie in the refrain. Collaborations and 'Covers' seem to be the trendy thing these days and Serenade presents the latter three times on this release and the band must be complimented for its vision in this regard. Still I think a couple of these versions could be a bit slower and deliberate.

'Kadan la viwe' and 'Jouver kadans' pays homage, not just to the genre but to some of the icons such as Jeff , Gordon as well as Liquid Ice, Exile and Grammaks to name a few. Murphy 'Sye' Jno Jules vocals on the former is one of the highlights in that department on the album. Of course it's all Cadence/ Zuke penned and arranged by none other than Adrien Mitchell who is entrusted to this genre on all Serenade's albums- and he does it well.

The collaboration with Phillip Horsford, the golden-voiced veteran in the Jim Reeves country cover of "He'll have to go" adds a welcomed dimension to the album; however, I thought less auto tune could have been applied to Alisha's vocals who accompanied him in the duo. Nonetheless, her real potential was exhibited in another cover "Halo" by Beyoncé where she did a commendable job on the vocal which seems to be more within her range. My only critique is that the "Halo" refrain of the male voices and brass licks could be substituted with female voices and a flute or strings respectively, in keeping with the mood and silky execution of the song.

The best selection of vocals and arrangements were done to the Archie and Carlty composition on "Erica". Carlty probably is the best singer/ trumpeter on island and he proves his vocal ability time and time again. He was also outstanding in his execution in the medley of Calypsos where his voice added some authenticity to the compositions.

Even while "Erica" stands out with the wonderful guitar licks of "Buggy", its lyrics and vocals, I cannot say the same for "Ti – Cochon La". Anecdotes about animals are a regular feature of the band with 'Beff la' and "Chicken Rhythm" but this time Serenade missed the mark. Still this album is a fine attempt to bring the 1st and only Serenade as a feature on Dominica's musical landscape. Dion Henderson the recording engineer and co-producer Josephine Wilson must be proud.

Look out for Part II featuring OBP.