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Calypso In New York

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Album Review

All of the material on this 26-song, 73-minute CD was recorded for Moe Asch of Folkways Records between 1946 and 1961; half of the tracks were previously unreleased. It may be that many of the arrangements he used were more accessible to American ears than those used by some of his calypso peers, or just that the fidelity on many of these numbers (particularly those from the later 1950s and early 1960s) is superior to that heard on many vintage calypso recordings. But Lord Invader does seem more comfortable with full-band, slightly jazzed-up calypso arrangements than some other calypso performers, without compromising the verve and bite of his lyrics and vocal delivery. Occasionally these recordings have minimal backing, as on "Ten Thousand to Bar Me One," on which he's accompanied only by drum, bottle, spoon, and chorus; sometimes the songs are traditional, such as the arguably overdone "Brown Girl in the Ring," on which again he's backed only by percussion and chorus. More often he combines calypso with instrumentation reminiscent of pre-war jazz, especially on the cuts on which he's accompanied by Felix and His Internationals, featuring Gregory Felix on clarinet. The topicality of his songs actually isn't too overt, but it's there to hear on songs about taking the New York subway, his experiences in Chicago, and "Yankee Dollar" (about his frustration question for compensation in his "Rum and Coca-Cola" plagiarism suit). "God Made Us All," prefaced by a speech from the ubiquitous Pete Seeger (a staple of Smithsonian Folkways releases), is a gentle anti-racism admonition. Whatever he's singing about, however, Lord Invader conveys easygoing nobody's-fool charm, in a manner that's less strident than some other calypsoites of the time.


Genre: Calypso

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s

Most famous as the composer of "Rum and Coca-Cola," Lord Invader was a popular calypso performer in both his native Trinidad and New York, recording from the late '30s through the early '60s. Born Rupert Westmore Grant, he made his recording debut for RCA Bluebird in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad in 1937, with a song about boxer Joe Louis, and continued to record (for both RCA and Decca) and place in the upper reaches of Trinidadian calypso competitions through the early '40s, when he also began to perform...
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Calypso In New York, Lord Invader
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