Another fine calypso album by Mighty Sparrow collaborating with Byron Lee and his group. Byron Lee is an interesting personage: his band, the Dragonaires, might be the longest-running musical group from Jamaica; they were very financially successfull and popular in Jamaica, all over Caribbean, and in the US in the 60s and 70s, but now are all but forgotten. Both their former popularity and their current obscurity stem from one source: they adapted the music of the slums to the tastes of the elite. So while the "real deal" was too dirty and dangerous, Byron Lee was a hit; when it was tamed by time and distance and became acceptable, the Dragonaires' fortunes declined.
The Dragonaires were musical omnivores, playing every caribbean style from calypso, mento and ska to reggae and rocksteady, but all of it with an eye for respectability. Byron Lee, a very talented musician and arranger, and a shrewd businessman, collected the latest tunes and trends from all over the islands, and then played them his own style, tight and smooth; hot dance numbers were interleaved with sappy ballads and instrumental covers of the US hits. This is the approach they choose here.
On this LP Mighty Sparrow made an honest effort to go commercial: he picked only the love songs from his repertoire, purging all the drinking, fighting and whoring subject matter. Unfortunately, this wasn't enough to fill an album, so there are some saccharine ballads sung by somebody else (I assume it's Byron Lee himself, but I have no positive proof) which are pretty disposable, and a couple of instrumental pieces, caribbiefied takes on the popular movie themes of the times - and those are pretty good. Only a Fool was Sparrow's only appearance on American charts. Incredibly, the song, while bearing his name ("Mighty Sparrow and Byron Lee", say the credits), did not have his vocals.
You can't keep a good man down, though: Sparrow's tunes are driving dance numbers with a chugging locomotive beat. Even his cover of an Otis Redding ballad (Try a Little Tenderness) is twice as fast as an original.
I will throw in another Byron Lee album without my endorsement. If you are a big reggae fan, go for it.
Mighty Sparrow and Byron Lee - Only a Fool
210VBR, 52 mb
1. Maria (MS)
2. No Money, No Love (MS)
3. More And More Amour (instrumental)
4. Born Free (BL)
5. Sandra (MS)
6. Walk Away (BL)
7. Peace And Love (MS)
8. Only A Fool (BL)
9. Theme From Dr Zhivago (instrumental)
10. More (BL)
11. Make The World Go Away (instrumental)
12. Try A Little Tenderness (MS)
Byron Lee and the Dragonaires - Reggay Eyes
128 kbps, 28 mb
1. Soul Serenade
2. Can I Change My Mind
3. More Scorcher
4. Long Shot Kick De Bucket
5. Square From Cuba
6. Another Scorcher
7. Musical Scorcher
8. Throw Me Corn
9. Bond In Bliss
10. Too Experienced
11. Games People Play
12. Pum Pum On A String