Herb Jeffries

Jamaica

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    6
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AllMusic Review by

This is a strange little CD, its music lifted from the soundtrack of Allied Artists' 1957 romantic drama Calypso Joe, directed by Edward Dein and starring Edward Kemmer and a young Angie Dickinson. Jeffries wrote all 12 of the songs on this CD, which is weighted decidedly toward the most popular side of calypso music. His voice is in fine shape on "White Sails," a romantic ballad on which his crooning is backed by strings and harp -- the richness of his tone overcomes the limitations of a conventional lyric. "Po' Mule" is a funny tale of marital deception set to a melody from Bizet's Carmen, on which Jeffries gives his voice more of a workout, soaring and holding notes long, while "Only One Love" is completely outside the realm of calypso, as an elegant, bittersweet pop ballad. He lightens up his approach considerably for "Fly Joe Fly," a playful, romantic number with harps added to a conventional small band, and his work on "Adam and Evil Blues" is almost an acting performance, with a declamatory singing style that is almost operatic despite the piece's blues origins. "Move Slowly Darling" is a similar example of big-band blues with Jeffries' voice enveloping the listener; "Magical Joe" is a cautionary tale supported by some spare and clever use of electric guitars to emphasize certain lyrical phrases; and "Jamaica" is a sultry piece of musical exotica that sounds a little too much like movie music (which it is), but Jeffries' voice pulls it off and turns it into a valid artistic vehicle. Only "Bayou," the final track, falls a little flat, being almost more of an acting monolog with blaring musical accompaniment than a song, telling the plotline of the movie -- it's a little too tuneless to have completed the album, regardless of where it came in the movie.

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