Harry Belafonte

Love Songs

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Harry Belafonte's influence on pop music is much more far reaching then many realize, as he was one of the first performers to bring worldbeat rhythms to the U.S. charts in the postwar era. His silky smooth mixture of jazz, folk, pop, and art song, often with impossibly infectious West Indies-styled accompaniment, coupled with his charismatic good looks and easy, hip coolness and sharp racial and political sense meant he was never reduced to being a mere commodity, even though he spent his whole career on major labels, most of those with RCA. This collection gathers 14 love songs from his various RCA albums, and the overall feel here is one of intelligent resignation and yearning, as Belafonte brings an elegant, reserved dignity to these melodies. Some of the obvious highlights include the opening track, a gorgeous and nuanced version of Ray Charles' "Hallelujah, I Love Her So," a gentle, delicate duet with Miriam Makeba on "My Angel (Malaika)," and "Angelina," a churning bit of calypso written by Irving Burgie. A singer whose careful, measured style makes the simplest phrase sound meaningful, intelligent and poignant, Belafonte gives these ballads and Caribbean tales of romance his signature treatment, and the result is delightful. Love Songs is the perfect record to play at that romantic dinner that needs a touch of real class, as song after song after song drifts by like the sweetest summer evening's breeze.

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