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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove



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ANDY NARELL & RELATOR

University of Calypso

Heads Up HUCD 3168

 

 


1. Gavaskar
2. Love in the Cemetery
3. Food Prices
4. Pan in Harmony
5. Eating Competition
6. Steel Band Music
7. My Pussin
8. Sugar for Pan
9. Hold Onto Your Man
10. Peddlars
11. Bottle and Spoon
12. Take Yuh Meat Out Meh Rice
13. Pan on Sesame Street
14. Ugly Woman
15. My Brother Your Sister


Andy Narell - Steel pans, iron
Relator - Vocals, guitar
Paquito D'Rivera - Clarinet, sax (tracks 4, 9, 10, 15)
Dario Eskenazl - Piano
Gregory Jones - Bass
Pedro Martinez - Congas, bongos, timbales
Mark Walker - Drums
Inor Sotolongo - Percussion
Marco Araya-Correa - Cuatro  


I (like many other Brits) was first introduced to the calypso through a song celebrating the West Indies' cricket team victory over England at the second Test Match in 1950. The song, Victory Calypso, started with the line "Cricket, lovely cricket". It was written and sung by Lord Beginner - alias Egbert Moore - and celebrated particularly the famous pair of cricketers Ramadhin and Valentine. Up to that time, we British knew little about the calypso, although it had long been established in Trinidad and other Caribbean countries. It had a peculiarly shifting beat, with emphasis placed on the least expected words. This syncopation allied it to jazz, especially when a calypso singer named Lord Kitchener (alias Aldwyn Roberts) wrote the Bebop Calypso praising the music of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

Calypso music has often been accompanied by steel bands, and on this CD perhaps the greatest modern exponent of the steel drum - Andy Narell - accompanies calypso singer Relator (alias Willard Harris). Narell uses multi-tracking to create a steel band backing with help from other musicians who stoke up a hot Latin rhythm. I know that many people dislike steel bands but I love their sound, with its rich bell-like timbres and multiple overtones (I also happen to like church bells, carillons and vibraphones!). In addition there is something attractive about the idea of steel drums (or steel pans): originally created out of disused oil drums by poor people who couldn't afford their own instruments.

At any rate, Andy Narell injects jazz into the calypsos on this album through his rich arrangements and jazzy solos. Steel drums have, of course, entered jazz in groups like those led by Monty Alexander and Jaco Pastorius. Relator performs many classic calypsos by such people as Lord Kitchener, as well as four of his own compositions. One of these - the first track, Gavaskar - reflects the Victory Calypso by recounting another noteworthy cricket match: between India and the West Indies in 1971. The song is named after India's master batsman, Sunil Gavaskar, who helped to defeat the West Indian team.

As with many calypsos, the songs on this CD are infused with delightfully ironic humour. On Food Prices, for instance, Relator bemoans the cost of basic foodstuffs: "Imagine cauliflower six dollars a head: It would be cheaper to buy marijuana instead". Ugly Woman gives the good advice: "Always marry a woman uglier than you". And the lyrics of My Pussin are full of double entendres, as Relator tells how he thought he had found his lost cat but a woman told him it belonged to her: "Don't touch my pussin at all".

As a bonus, Paquito D'Rivera is a welcome guest on clarinet in Pan in Harmony, Peddlars and My Brother Your Sister, and on saxophone in Hold Onto Your Man. But the main attraction of this album is Andy Narell's virtuosity on innumerable steel pans, which is markedly audible in Sugar for Pan, an instrumental which also includes a splendid piano solo from Dario Eskenazi. Note also the use of a familiar bebop phrase in Peddlars.

Although calypso seems to have fallen out of most people's consciousness in recent years, Andy Narell says: "I believe this project has great potential to reach people. The music is so accessible, people can latch on to so many different things - the beautiful melodies, the groove for dancing, the stories told in the lyrics, the humour, the jazz elements, how the band plays together and interacts, the soloing - and on top of it all, we've got an incredibly dynamic guy out front singing these songs, a real storyteller in the great calypso tradition". He's right.

Tony Augarde 



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