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Mambo Nassau

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Album Review

Out in some alternate universe, where old songs float around in space, there is a bridge that links Talking Heads' "I Zimbra" to the same band's "Born Under Punches." That bridge is formed by nine of the ten songs that make up Mambo Nassau, Lizzy Mercier Descloux's second solo album. Whether or not Descloux's severe yet foreseeable change in approach had anything to do with Talking Heads' own development is not (widely) known. It is known that she had become inspired by the traditional world music released on France's Ocora label, and in 1980 she took drummer Bill Perry down to Nassau to record at Compass Point, where she was aided by a number of people, including keyboard wiz, arranger, and — ding ding! — future Talking Heads associate Wally Badarou. The intent was to incorporate African elements into Descloux's existing vibrant mix of arty funk, disco, and film music, and the result was an album that nearly rivals just about any other rhythmically inventive release that came from the rock world at the time. Naturally, Mambo Nassau is even more adventurous than Press Color. The instrumental setup — with the exception of some of the percussion — is completely Western and rock-oriented, with Badarou's excitable synthesizer often figuring prominently, whether churning out squiggled melodies or affecting the mood of the song with sensitive accents. The interplay between all of the instruments is positively acrobatic, including off-kilter time-keeping, wriggling guitars, and plump basslines that seem to twist in place. And, of course, there's Descloux's voice at the center of it all, adding even more life to the material with infectious wide-eyed exuberance. Eight of the album's ten songs are originals. Once you hear the cover of Kool & the Gang's "Funky Stuff," you'll realize that no one has ever had as much fun as Descloux had playing that song.


Born: 1956 in Paris, France

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

A musician, songwriter, poet, painter, author, and actress, Lizzy Mercier Descloux enjoyed a recording career as eclectic as her résumé would suggest, breaking boundaries as one of the pioneers of New York's no wave scene as well as fusing African rhythms with R&B and pop, anticipating the worldbeat movement before it became a music business buzzword. Mercier Descloux was born in Paris, France on December 16, 1956. She studied art as a teenager, and struck up a romance with Michel Esteban, who like...
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Mambo Nassau, Lizzy Mercier Descloux
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