Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte [1999 Camden]

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Released on Camden Records's RCA budget imprint, this self-titled Harry Belafonte sampler doesn't include any of his famous mid-'50s hits like "Day-O" or "Jamaica Farewell" (two delightful West Indies facsimiles written by Brooklyn-born Irving Burgie), and it runs awfully short, especially for the digital age, but it has enough going for it to make it a rewarding purchase if the price is right. There is only one Burgie composition here, "Angelina" (he had a hand in writing "Coconut Woman," which sounds much more Belafonte than Burgie in construction), and very little of the pop calypso that brought Belafonte his biggest successes, but there are some intriguing selections none-the-less. Belafonte's version of the eerie, haunting Afro-American folk ballad "Diamond Joe" is stunning, sparse and powerful, as is his take on the sad blues "Delia's Gone," and both selections show how artful and precise Belafonte was in his deceptively simple-sounding arrangements. There was much more to Belafonte than his famous faux calypso hits, as this collection shows, but in the end it probably makes more sense to spend a few extra dollars and pick up a more extensive single disc of this dynamic and intimate performer.

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