Another fine, live performance, 38 years after Carnegie Hall.
It is hard to believe that Harry Belafonte was seventy years old in 1997 when he recorded this fantastic album, which includes folk, some updates of his famous songs, many new songs from different cultures, and recent compositions by composer Jake Holmes. His performance is still as high energy as ever. His voice, though a bit huskier, is still supple, with a broad range. His timing is impeccable, and his musicianship puts younger stars to shame.
Where this CD differs most from his recordings of forty years ago is in the inclusion of enthusiastic and talented young singers, both male and female, in an ensemble which frequently sings with him or in counterpoint to him, expanding the variations and harmonies of individual songs and allowing Belafonte to keep his music fresh and exciting. Belafonte's eclectic choice of instrumentation--flutes, vibes, drums, and even pennywhistle--also adds new sounds and depth to his presentations. Throughout the CD, Belafonte stresses cultural diversity, and as he himself was a victim of the color bar in his early career, it is not surprising that many of the songs he celebrates here have their roots in Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America.
The five songs written by Jake Holmes are among the best on the CD: "We Are the Wave," "Skin to Skin," Kwela (Listen to the Man)," "Dangerous Times," and "Paradise in Gazankulu." All are songs of immense passion and drama and are filled with haunting rhythms which range from calypso to African drums. Richard Bona from Cameroon, sings "Eyala," a sad song in which he accompanies himself on guitar, and "Eyando," another minor-keyed song with vibes, guitar, and drums, both of which he sings in his own language and which contain unusual rhythms and beautiful, wailing refrains.
"Turn the World Around," which Belafonte sings in 5/4 time, is outstanding, with Bona singing in counterpoint to Belafonte, and Belafonte's ensemble singing variations and harmonies in the background. The gorgeous "Try to Remember" never sounded better, with simple guitar accompaniment at the outset, blending into strings and more orchestration, as other, higher voices echo above Belafonte and provide variations and haunting harmonies.
In complete communion with his audience throughout the CD, Belafonte is a consummate musician and entertainer, one who does not hesitate to break new ground, musically. In his first album in fifteen years, and (unbelievably) thirty-eight years after his ground-breaking Carnegie Hall album, Belafonte shows that he still has it all! Mary Whipple
1. We Are The Wave 2. Turn The World Around 3. Island In The Sun 4. Skin To Skin 5. Kwela (Listen To The Man) 6. Eyala 7. Matilda 8. Dangerous Times 9. Try To Remember 10. Paradise In Gazankulu 11. Eyando 12. Jamaica Farewell 13. Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)