31 December 2016, No. 225, Barrabas, ‘Wild Safari’

Whoa oh oh, “Wild Safari” by Barrabas is No. 225. We had the funkier “It” at No. 162, and we’ll have David Mancuso’s Loft standard “Woman” in the low 500s. While “Woman” was the song that brought Barrabas to my awareness and made me buy Barrabas records, working on the eighth mixtape I came to love “Wild Safari” most of all. It’s one of those tunes that starts with a lone conguero (probably Tito Duarte), and then every sound that joins in just makes it better. Not a spoiler in the bunch.

The first time I saw someone mute and unmute a triangle in syncopated counterpoint to the rhythm he tapped on its side with the little steel stick, it was a pretty funky epiphany for me. Grade school triangles just went “ding,” but this one opened and closed like hi-hat. Now I hardly go anywhere without a drum line flowing through my fingers. The books on my shelves bear fingernail marks on their textblocks and spines. The edges of my keyboard are worn and pocked.

The triangle that joins the conga in “Wild Safari” is followed by the drum kit, mostly hi-hats, and then the first really promising payoff: “Way / oh way / oh way oh way oh way” the women’s chant fades in and doubles up in a higher register, boding well.

Then it stops and gives way to a staccato and mildly distorted guitar lick, which bodes less well. The guitar lasts more than a bar before the chants come back with “Ooh ha,” coed this time and reminding us there’s still something hot going on behind the organ-cooled rock posturing.

When the vocal kicks in with the verses, it’s mostly incomprehensible to me. Look up the lyrics. They’re vague, which I like, though this vagueness renders them unmemorable as well. Say elephants like buildings. And when the hook takes off, hold on.

I know it’s meant to evoke a jungle theme—“Wild Safari” and elephants and all—but the title brings to my mind The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ Safari” (the Jan and Dean version, actually), and when everyone in the studio joins in to sing “Whoa oh oh / wild safari …” it feels like the song is a surfboard cresting a wave rather than a jeep full of tourists waiting for wild animals to kill.

Say everyone is something. Say all the cars are roaring. Wave or safari, a good token of either type should bring you full circle to unload your stories and/or spoils. Whoa oh oh, “Wild Safari” by Barrabas is No. 225.