Harry Belafonte - Island in the Sun
see end of review for track listing
Retrospective RTS 4217 
Racial prejudice in the USA has been (and still is) so strong that it is very hard for Black artists to become stars. The exceptions have been few: Paul Robeson, Nat "King" Cole, Sidney Poitier are some of the only names that come to mind. To these we can add Harry Belafonte, who was a friend of Sidney Poitier and was inspired by Paul Robeson. Belafonte was born in the USA but spent part of his childhood in Jamaica, whence came some of the folk songs that he made famous. Calypso was the title of his best-selling 1956 album and he became particularly well-known for singing calypsos.
This double CD traces his singing career from 1952 to 1962 and it includes most of his British and American hits, although it omits Little Bernadette which was a top-twenty British hit in 1958. Island In The Sun is typical of his Caribbean-flavoured successes, which also included Jamaica Farewell andThe Banana Boat Song. The latter was popular enough to be parodied by Stan Freberg.
Belafonte also specialised in other genres, such as religious songs like Mary's Boy Child and the spiritual Wake Up, Jacob, which sometimes tended towards the sentimental. He also revived various folk songs, like Shenandoah, John Henry and Jump Down, Spin Around. His concern for folk music was not restricted to America but also found expression in the Jewish Hava Nagila, the Mexican Cu-Cu-Ru-Cu-Cu Paloma and the African Bamotsweri (a duet with Miriam Makeba). His humanitarian and political concerns were reflected in such songs as Diamond Joe and several work songs from the album Swing Dat Hammer.
Belafonte could make all these varied genres popular because he had a warm, versatile, emotive voice - rather like Paul Robeson. One appealing factor of this album is the wide range of styles it represents.
Tony Augarde

Track listing
1. Island In The Sun
2. Scarlet Ribbons
3. Shenandoah
4. Matilda, Matilda
5. Suzanne
6. Hold 'Em, Joe
7. I'm Just A Country Boy
8. John Henry
9. Sylvie
10. Jump Down, Spin Around
11. Jamaica Farewell
12. The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)
13. Come Back, Liza
14. Brown Skin Girl
15. Cu-Cu-Ru-Cu-Cu Paloma
16. Hava Nagila
17. Mary's Boy Child
18. Lucy's Door
19. Coconut Woman
20. Don't Ever Love Me
21. Mama, Look A Boo-Boo
22. Fifteen
23. All My Trials
1. Times Are Getting Hard, Boys
2. Turn Around
3. Go 'Way From My Window
4. Cotton Fields
5. The Son Of Mary
6. Wake Up, Jacob
7. My Lord, What A Mornin'
8. Oh, Freedom
9. Look Over Yonder
10. Diamond Joe
11. Rocks And Gravel
12. Swing Dat Hammer
13. There's A Hole In My Bucket
14. The Virgin Mary Had A Baby Boy
15. Jump In The Line
16. The Land Of The Sun And The Sea
17. The Midnight Special
18. Gotta Travel On
19. Michael, Row The Boat Ashore
20. 'Long About Now
21. Bamotsweri
22. Try To Remember

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