The Rough Guide to Calypso Gold
Calypso is Trinidad's art form, grounded in Africa, but very much of the West Indies, growing out of slave culture. It's the mainstay of Carnival -- even now, there's still a calypso tent -- and it's a world compiler Jean Michel Gibert knows very well. These really are some of calypso's golden moments, going back to the relatively early days of recording with Monrose's String Orchestra (sounding not unlike a sophisticated American string band), to King Radio in the '40s, or Calypso Rose offering "Rum & Coca Cola," which became a major U.S. hit for the Andrews Sisters, down to calypso's heyday in the '50s, when Lord Kitchen, Mighty Bomber, and Lord Pretender were iconic figures in a genre that briefly went worldwide. But it's not just the performers; the best calypso songs have entered the lexicon of popular music, like "Scandal in the Family," "Mary Ann," or "Man Smart Woman Smarter." Although much calypso has been topical or local, those -- among many others -- have found lasting international fame. The compilation also explores a couple of interesting little side streets -- calypso in French and in Creole, which have never figured largely, but are still significant. All in all, a very satisfying disc that works beautifully as a calypso primer.
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- World Music Network
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