Harry Belafonte

The Many Moods of Belafonte/Ballads, Blues and Boasters

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Issued in the British Isles, this CD combines the contents of two Harry Belafonte LPs: The Many Moods of Belafonte, released in November 1962, and Ballads, Blues and Boasters, released in September 1964. The two albums were not consecutive releases; in between, Belafonte put out the 1963 collection Streets I Have Walked. The logical question, then, is why one or the other of the LPs was not combined with that one. Annotators Albert Nuttall and Carlo Stevan of the definitive website www. belafontetracks.ca do not address that issue, but the decision doubtless was a stylistic one. Streets I Have Walked, while not explicitly pitched as a children's album, features the Spring Gardens Junior High School No. 59 Choir backing Belafonte on songs that often have a youthful flavor. In contrast, The Many Moods of Belafonte and Ballads, Blues and Boasters are more adult efforts, beginning with the opening track, "Tongue Tie Baby," one of Belafonte's calypso efforts, complete with Caribbean accent, in which he humorously describes a romantic tryst. Elsewhere, eclecticism is the ruling principal on albums intended to showcase Belafonte's versatility. That means not only blues, ballads, and "boasters" (the liner notes cite as an example of the last a jazzy arrangement of the civil rights anthem "Back of the Bus"), but also show tunes like "Summertime Love" (from Greenwillow) and "Try to Remember" (from The Fantasticks); original folk songs like "Who's Gonna Be Your Man" (also given a jazz reading) and "'Long About Now," both co-written by the Weavers' Fred Hellerman; African songs like Miriam Makeba's "Bamotsweri" (with Makeba performing on the track); Hebrew lullabies like "Lyla, Lyla"; and gospel songs like "Ananias." The material is so varied that it risks being too diverse, but as on similarly mixed albums by the Weavers and Peter, Paul & Mary, the key element of stylistic consistency is the performer. Belafonte is an excellent musical actor, adopting different approaches, not to mention accents and languages on occasion, for different songs. But his distinctive voice and personality are always present, guiding the listener from style to style and country to country. These two albums didn't contain any Belafonte hits (although "Try to Remember" became a permanent part of his concert repertoire). But they nevertheless give a good sense of the artist's gifts on a package that, at nearly 80 minutes, extends to the limits of the CD medium.

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