Palo Congo by Sabu
Listening to this album is like attending a meeting of a secret society. Or a cult. Critics and record stores categorize it as latin jazz. I wouldn't say that's not true. But, I think it's more psychedelic than that classification would lead you to believe.
Released by Blue Note in 1957, Palo Congo by Sabu Martinez contains none of the elements most commonly associated with psychedelic music. There's no garage-y surf guitars or weird effect-filled instrumental passages. What it does contain is a lot of drumming coated in a ton of reverb. There are also vocals, whistles and other traditional instruments snuck in to keep the project from sounding entirely toneless. There are songs included in this set—most notably the popular "El Cumbanchero." But a good 50% of what's here is pure manic, percussive energy without much melody at all and its ability to draw the listener into a trance is arguably the album's most impressive quality.
Palo Congo is an audacious debut from Martinez, a percussionist who had already developed a reputation as an expert sideman. Depending on your mood, it can serve as either a boost of caffeine or a sedative. It's rewarding to pay close attention to it, or to simply put it on as background music. In the huge catalog of Blue Note, this is truly a hidden treasure worth seeking out.