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Tropical Brainstorm

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In the wake of her divorce from producer Steve Lillywhite, Kirsty MacColl took the first of what turned out to be many trips to Cuba. The country had a lasting influence on MacColl’s creative and political consciousness over her final years, before a 2000 boating accident cut her life short. Her final album, Tropical Brainstorm, is the product of her love affair with Cuba and the subsequent trips she took to Brazil and other South American locales. Though it was recorded in London, the album is full of equatorial color almost to the point of delirium. Following the runaway success of the late-'90s Buena Vista Social Club revival, numerous Anglo musicians began drawing from Latin traditions. But MacColl knew better than to simply appropriate a foreign culture; she took what she'd learned firsthand and made it her own. Her passion for Cuban culture resounds throughout these songs, but at the same time, they're interwoven with her distinctly British wit. There are even flashes of her Irish roots. Rather than an opportunistic mash-up, Tropical Brainstorm feels like a distinguished account of a curious woman’s worldly travels.

Customer Reviews

Why this album has meaning beyond it

I first heard about Kirsty MacColl in an NPR review of this album on the morning of Saturday, September 9th, 2001, when I was driving to meet up with work friends for a business trip to New York. I bought the album at a Border's on Sunday the 10th, but because this was pre-iPods and I did not have a CD player with me on that trip, I did not hear it until the night of the 11th. That morning, on our way out of the town we were in, a waitress told us over breakfast that a plane had just hit the WTC. Before we checked out, another had hit. As my work group drove home, it felt like the end of the world. We were coming through Pennsylvania when we heard about that plane, and about the same time, if memory serves me, we heard about the Pentagon. The CD was forgotten, of course, during that drive, as it felt like we might possibly be under a military attack. When I got home, I played it while I took a bath. There is a song that has a jet noise feature. It set my nerves on edge. I wasn't sure I liked the album. I wasn't in the right state for the energy and cheek that this album has in so much abundance. Much later, I gave it another try and loved it. I still do. It will always remind me of my feelings about 9/11. Even though the ensuing media storm deadened my initial emotions, even sickened me to the whole thing, and the political maneuvers that followed have a still-lingering bad taste in my mouth, when I play the album, what I remember is my curiosity on the 9th, hearing possibly Scott Simon talk about MacColl and her then-fresh legacy. It is a way to remember something really pleasant and innocent that predates all the rest. There was a beautiful sunrise that morning as I listened to the NPR piece. I will always remember that thanks to this collection.

One of the best albums I've ever heard

Ignore all that stuff on the front page of iTunes. Get this instead. Brilliant, beautiful, fearless, endlessly creative. Complex enough to need more than one or two listenings to get everything that's going on, but that means it rewards new listenings with new delights. My only regret is that we'll never get to hear whatever album would have come next.


Kirsty's Voice is superb throught this album. there's not a song that i dislike! The tone of it is just so happy, well in the exceptions of Autumgirlsoup and Wrong again. Fantastic


Born: October 10, 1959 in Croydon, London, England

Genre: Pop

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

Kirsty MacColl, daughter of folk singer/songwriter Ewan MacColl, began her own musical career while still in her teens, singing in a band called the Addix, and eventually signed to the legendary Stiff Records. Her first single, the modern girl group gem, "They Don't Know," was released in 1979. Though it failed in the charts, it was later a major hit for Tracey Ullman. Kirsty MacColl switched to Polydor in the '80s and landed a U.K. Top 40 hit with the novelty song "There's a Guy Works Down the Chip...
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Tropical Brainstorm, Kirsty MacColl
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