Singer-songwriter and guitarist
Macfarlane "Tony" Mackey was born in the Bahamas in 1942
but moved to New York to study architecture. He soon began to play in the
cafes popular with folksingers of the Greenwich Movement, and released
Ten Past Twelve Cinderella Blues / Riddle Rhyme Song (1963),
Nobody's Perfect / Detroit (1965) and
Island Hog / The Ticking Of The Clock (1967).
Exuma (Mercury, 1970)
introduced his mix of reggae, calypso, and pop,
permeated by the Bahamian "junkanoo", a rhythm that was traditionally played
on goatskin drums, cowbells, bicycle horns and whistles but that
his band recast on guitar, keyboards and drums.
Mackey is a fiery street folksinger paraphrasing black shouters
in Exuma The Obeah Man, like David Peel imitating Wilson Pickett, while the band simply
strums and beats its instruments for percussive purposes.
Mama Loi Papa Loi is another passionate quasi-gospel street shout amid a
jungle of percussive sounds.
Junkanoo adds an harmonica to
the mayhem of bells, drums, congas and whistles.
The solemn chant
You Don't Know What's Going On rides a rhythm that sounds like prancing country-rock.
Exuma II (1970) contains the
insanely energetic singalong Damn Fool
the passionate soul elegy Baal
the feverish gospel-like Fire In The Hole
the fragile lullaby A Place Called Earth
the hypnotic bluesy We Got To Go
and the catchy, loose, chaotic dance Zandoo,
frequently pitting his raspy wailing against a stately choir.
Do Wah Nanny (Kama Sutra, 1971) contains the hit Do Wah Nanny,
their most melodic number yet, with the backing of a horn section,
and the apocalyptic ballad 22nd Century, but only
Roweena matches the exuberance of the first two albums.
Snake (Kama Sutra, 1972),
Reincarnation (Kama Sutra, 1972) and
Life (Kama Sutra, 1973)
continued his pioneering world-music
mission with less inspiration.
McKay's estranged wife and their first son were murdered in 1972.
After playing the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 1978,
Mackey relocated Exuma there and drafted his Bahamian friend Teddy "Josiah" Kinlock as well as a rotating cast of New Orleans musicians. Exuma's late-night
show at the Old Absinthe Bar in the French Quarter became legendary.
Each of these LPs had a ballad that scored a huge success in the Bahamas, "Rose Maty Smith" on Universal and "Shirlene" on Street Life.
Street Music (Nassau, 1979), reissued as Rude Boy (ROIR, 1986),
is a reggae album that marked a return to form thanks to
the catchy anthem Rudeboy,
the slow singalong Clean On The Outside Dirty On The Inside,
the lazy ditty Fishing On The Rock,
the festive lullaby Dready,
and the feverish soca dance Bite Me On My Belly,
although the hit was the lame pop-soul torch ballad Shirlene.
Penny Sausage (Inagua, 1979) was recorded with of 21 musicians and 17 backing vocalists. The various
Penny Sausage and Black Hawk sound like impeccable
imitations of classic Exuma. Nothing new, but nothing wrong either.
Universal (Cat Island, 1982), whose highlight is another lively
dance, Guy Fawkes,
he suffered a heart attack that ended his recording career.
He left New Orleans and spent the rest of his years between Miami and Nassau.
Exuma died in the Bahamas in january 1997.
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