Mighty Sparrow

Caribbean Christmas, Vol. 2

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The first volume of Mighty Sparrow's Caribbean Christmas was such a mail-order hit -- as well as a smash with cruise-trip crews -- that a sequel was dictated necessary. This is also number 23 in The Millennium Series, the complete collection of Sparrow's recorded works over 35 volumes. No one can fault Mighty Sparrow's contribution to the music and culture of his region, nor can one debate his status as the king of calypso. That said, the first of these collections might have made for an interesting aside, a novelty record with seasonal appeal, but a second one? Come on. Here all the canned synthesizer backing is ever present and there are drum machines, sequencer, and programmed synths everywhere, taking the edge off any real calypso groove; it's all electronic. Then there's Sparrow's delivery on his "Caribbean Style Christmas Medley," with "The Christmas Song," "Jingle Bells," "Christmas Bells Are Ringing," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "I'll Be Home for Christmas," "Joy to the World," and other nuggets that last over 17 minutes -- and it's only the first track. There are also complete renditions of "Winter Wonderland," "Jingle Bells" again, "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," and another "Christmas Medley," plus about ten more, all done in a Harry Belafonte-meets-Nat King Cole style. Is this excess or what? I've heard of giving people their money's worth, but this is simply too much. And Sparrow offers none of his own unique musical personality in these readings, which is the greatest crime of all. Many of the discs in The Millennium Series are worth owning, but this is simply not one of them.

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