Robert Mitchum

Calypso Is Like So...

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More hip than Don Johnson's Heartbeat, not as camp as William Shatner's The Transformed Man, and equally as kitsch as, well, most everything else from the '50s, Robert Mitchum's Calypso -- Is Like So will win you over. Recorded in 1957, the idea for the album must have been hatched in a rum fervor. While filming in Trinidad, Mitchum began soaking up some of the local musical talent, such as Lord Melody and Mighty Sparrow. The result is an album of neither watered down nor truly authentic calypso. Included are the requisite steel drums, congas, and backing horns and many traditional Caribbean songs, yet, a few are obvious rockers รก la Elvis Presley. His voice sounds something like Bing Crosby crossed with Dean Martin and Merle Haggard, and his insistence of affecting the broken English of many of the real calypso artists -- this is "dis," "the" is often dropped -- may smack some as distasteful. Nonetheless, it is great to hear such an icon of Hollywood cool having so much kooky fun at his own expense. And the album is not bereft of musical merit. One of the most interesting elements is the use of a banjo instead of guitar as a single line instrument for solos, prefiguring the instrument's use in many contemporary bluegrass and avant-jazz outfits. Also included as a bonus are two rockabilly tracks the artist recorded for his 1958 bootleg. Noir flick Thunder Road, of which the title track "The Ballad of Thunder Road" was a moderately successful pop hit.

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