Roaring Lion

Sacred 78's

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More than 70 years after beginning his singing career in 1927 at the age of 18, the venerable calypsonian Rafael de Leon was still roaring, performing shows in Miami and in his native Trinidad. Sacred 78's is a collection of 25 singles recorded between the early '30s and late '60s, when he was at the peak of his powers. The sound quality is a bit dodgy, as you might expect, but it's surprisingly clear -- the better to catch all of the double entendres, political propaganda, social commentary, and romantic chest-pounding that characterizes calypso in general and the Roaring Lion's singing in particular. "Cheek to Cheek" (which borrows subtly from the melody of the Irving Berlin standard, but is otherwise unrelated) expresses puzzlement over a lady friend's preference for other ladies when it comes to, um, dancing. In "Weather Man" he criticizes the inaccuracy of weather reporting. "Advantage Mussolini" (one of the least sonically attractive selections) takes Fascism to task. Perhaps more to the point, though, he counsels his friend Melda to wash her hands and clean her nails and faults several other ladies for their ugliness. Delicate it's not, but this stuff is a lot of fun.

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