Harry Belafonte

Homeward Bound

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By 1969, Harry Belafonte had lost his touch. The folk boom he helped start was long over with, and with it went his knack for introducing traditional songs to new generations of listeners in new ways. Also gone were the songs from other lands. Belafonte had all but eliminated songs from the Caribbean from his recorded repertoire, except for the calypso albums he was releasing at five-year intervals.

In the '50s and early '60s, Belafonte's concert performances were drawn from his unique, well-received albums. Now, his albums reflected the slick, well-produced concerts at large arenas. Belafonte's handlers knew that lowest-common-denominator sells tickets -- and records. And so comes this mediocre exercise in LCD programming; safe songs performed in an unchallenging atmosphere. The songs are almost entirely ballads, with nothing to break up the slow-paced monotony. Songwriters represented are "safe" singer-songwriters: Fred Neil ("The Dolphin"), Gordon Lightfoot ("The Last Time I Saw Her, Softly"), and Tim Hardin ("If I Were a Carpenter"), with one Bob Dylan track ("Tomorrow is a Long Time") thrown in for variety.

The album cover depicts Belafonte lying on some railroad tracks, cigarette in hand, with his eyes closed. He must have been listening to the playback.