Tabla Rock - Shawn Lee's Incredible Tabla Band
While all the other guys in the 70s were trying to figure out which 8-track better suited the mood; Foghat or James Taylor, Shawn Lee must have been watching Russ Meyer movies and listening to Isaac Hayes. Retro is all the rage these days. As people rediscover their cassette mix tapes and vinyl, others are busting out grand dad’s brownie camera and playing with real film photography (sadly, too late for Kodak), but Lee’s long looks over his shoulder benefit from 20/20 hindsight. I imagine in his studio, tucked behind mountains of vintage spring reverbs and space echoes, you’d find something akin to Peabody’s Way Back Machine. Not only is Tabla Rock an authentic funky, lovingly reimagined slice from a bygone age, it’s filtered through every influence that has shaped the sound since. A good example is the Incredible Tabla Band’s treatment of Apache. A number one hit for The Shadows in 1960, the namesake inspiration for Lee’s latest album, The Incredible Bongo Band covered the instrumental in 1973 and it became one of the great early hip hop breaks after sampling by Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash. In Lee’s world, however, the west Indian theme takes on east Indian overtones. As a matter of fact, Tabla Rock is title for title a tribute to the original Bongo Rock record but with the notable difference of tabla replacing the beatnik bongos. In Shawn Lee’s version, sitars serve up the cheesy guitar licks while Indian classical’s time-honored pairing of small hand drums doink out the backbeat. Tabla Rock also includes two tracks from the Incredible Bongo Band’s second album, Benny Goodman’s swing icon, Sing, Sing, Sing and Pipeline, the latter getting the chill treatment, strangely turning the urgency of The Venture’s surf guitar anthem into a molten, oozing hang ten on a wave of peanut butter. While Ringo Starr is even rumored to have contributed to the original Bongo Rock, Shawn Lee revives the tradition of employing some notable help, only this time, drawing from more modern circles, featuring Cyber from Asian Dub Foundation on tabla and Style Council’s Mick Talbot on keys. Time travel to an alternate past with whatever technology you prefer. The Incredible Tabla Band’s Tabla Rock provides the perfect soundtrack.