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RECORD RACK

Soca's Groove : CHECK LIST * * * * Great Balls of Fire * * * Good Vibrations * * Maybe Baby * Running on Empty :

December 20, 1987|DON SNOWDEN

* * * DAVID RUDDER AND VARIOUS ARTISTS. "This Is Soca." Sire. Soca (short for soul calypso ) is the upbeat dance style that began supplanting the slower, message-oriented traditional calypsos in the Caribbean during the late '70s. This collection--the first by a major American label--features one album by vocalist David Rudder, another spotlighting the soca hits of '87, and a stunning jacket showing old calypsonians in their best rude boy regalia.

Rudder injects some variety into soca's characteristic staccato horn melodies and loping, syncopated rhythm. He serves up a catchy genre salute ("Calypso Music"), jazzy scatting ("Bahia Girl"), a soca-reggae blend (the celebratory "Permission to Mash Up the Place") and a reggae-funk-rap melange mixed with humorous lyrics ("Kojak").

The "hits" album relies on a certain level of infatuation with soca's infectious groove. Natasha's "One Day" plays soothing vocals against flashing horns, Baron's "Say Say" sports a captivating chorus and an unusually energetic arrangement, and Black Stalin contributes patois-laden vocals and militant lyrics on "Burn Dem."

Despite the often one-dimensional sound, "This Is Soca" is an effective introduction to a style that--through recordings like Buster Poindexter's version of the Arrow hit "Hot, Hot, Hot"--may soon be making big waves in the international pop marketplace.

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