Listening to the always entertaining Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show on Saturday my ears pricked up at the sound of something familiar.
It was a new release titled Comencos from a band called Jungle Fire who, it transpires, are a new-ish California latin-funk outfit. But what caused me to focus my listening that Comencos was a cover of a tune that I only heard for the first time a few weeks ago, though it dates back to 1972.
Maybe everyone else had heard of Phirpo Y Sus Caribes but they had managed to pass me by. Little did I know that they had recorded a highly-regarded album of red-hot latin music that now changes hands for silly money on ebay and is probably spoken about in hushed tones by knowledgeable people standing just inside the range where I would hear them if they spoke at normal volume.
No disrespect to Jungle Fire but Phirpo’s original(-ish) version of Comencos is incendiary. The kind of tune that as soon as you hear it you have to seek out everything else the band has done. Trouble is, there isn’t that much more to find.
There’s just one album – Parilla Caliente which had two releases, in Venezuela in 1972 and in Colombia a year later. The Colombian version has a cover that looks like a Top of the Pops compilation that sneaked past the censors, the Venezuelan one looks like the censors were handed a bribe by the National Meat Marketing Board.
Aside from a jaunty version of Brown Girl In The Ring, Comencos is the stand-out track but to call it the original as far as the Jungle Fire version goes would be a little bit disingenuous.
Comencos is itself a cover of a Fela Kuti track called Let’s Start (hence the name) released a year earlier. It’s on the fantastic, though unimaginatively named, Live! that Fela recorded with Ginger Baker.
Which is where it gets a little bit nodal. I hadn’t given Ginger Baker a second thought in years but, just days before hearing the Jungle Fires tune, I was pointed in the direction of a new film about him. It looks a bit special.
Now, I don’t want to read too much into it but I think it’s a pretty clear sign that pop culture is starting a cycle under the sign of ginger. Simply Red are going to huge again this year, mark my words.