IF Randy Newman were a Bronx-bred soul and reggae fan, if Ruben Blades sang satire in English, if Prince had any sense of subtlety, they might each resemble August Darnell. For a dozen years now, Darnell has been making some of the smartest, funniest dance records anywhere -- first with Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band, and more recently with Kid Creole & the Coconuts. The new Kid Creole album, "I, Too, Have Seen the Woods," is just one more overlooked triumph: a heady mix of Caribbean rhythms, soul harmonies, new wave keyboards and wicked satire.
Many of these new songs sound like selections from a Spanish Harlem version of "The Threepenny Opera." The music to "Part of My Design," for example, is sweet reggae with a sonic boom drum beat, but if you listen carefully, you'll notice the lyrics are sung by a drug pusher trying desperately to rationalize his trade. "So Far, So Good" sounds like a lean slice of Minneapolis funk, but the narrative about a high-society crime is far more ambitious than any lyrics Prince has ever penned.
Best of all is "Call It a Day," which boasts the most infectious, melodic funk of the year. The lyrics, though, are a lament for the Bronx Darnell used to know -- an urban village of sidewalk philosophizers and front-stoop card players -- which has now turned into a ghost town with "a dog and a padlock for every door."
Filling out the album are several swooning love songs and a couple of spicy salsa tunes by Darnell's longtime partner, Coati Mundi Andy Hernandez. KID CREOLE & THE COCONUTS --
"I, Too, Have Seen the Woods" (Sire 9 25579-1). Appearing this Friday at the Warner.