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Reviews

Calypso Rose Calypso Rose
Album: So Calypso
Label: Because
Tracks: 12
Website: http://www.calypso-rose.com/

An assured new album from a living legend, enjoying an artistic renaissance in her late seventies. This CD is the follow up to the 2016 platinum release 'Far from Home', which led to the WOMEX artist of the year award and a Victoires de la Musique (the French Grammy).

On her new recording she pays tribute to a diverse and eclectic mix of musicians, from Aretha Franklin to Angelique Kidgjo; from the US via Jamaica to Benin, artists that inspired and influenced her.

Social cometary is woven with love and humour through the work of this artist; one of the first women to achieve commercial success in a genre known for its male domination. A feminist pioneer and a social activist, her 1970 hit 'No Madame' was credited with triggering legislative change.

A mix of covers and originals drawn from her vast songbook, the album opens with Nat King-Coles 'Calypso Blues', here given a reggae and soul treatment. Dionne Warwick's 'Say a Little Prayer' has a gentle skanking groove with lush strings and a soulful brass arrangement. The mellow good time swing of the music masks some subtle and controversial points, lambasting the male condition in a 'Man is a Man' and commenting on the African diaspora in 'Israel By Bus.'

Musicianship is superb throughout, as Rose band her talented band demonstrate a mastery of pretty much all of the Caribbean styles of the last fifty years. Her voice is strong, playful and teasing, relaxed yet pitch perfect and a masterclass in subtlety and timing. Completely secure in her artistry, her stature enables her to tackle saccharine clich├ęs, she makes them fresh and interesting. For examples, go to her minimalist reading of the Andrews Sisters 'Rum and Coco-Cola', with voice elegant and sparse set against percussion and keys, or her take on the Melodions 'Rivers of Babylon', trombone to the fore in a classic reggae arrangement of a number that was famously a hit for Boney-M.

The album closes with a joyous African styled take on 'the Wa Fu Dance', which could be her theme tune, with its Calypso Rose chant.

Born in 1940 McArtha Linda Sandy-Lewis on the Caribbean island of Tobago, she wrote her first song at the age of 15, initially singing as the Crusoe Kid. By the lime she turned pro in 1964 she had adopted the title Calypso Rose. Sixty years, eight hundred songs and innumerable albums later this fascinating and often controversial artist is still going strong.

Laura Thomas