Artist: Mighty Sparrow
Label: Strut Records
It’s amazing what the power of music can do. It’s the middle of winter, the wind is biting at your nose, your fingers are numb, and yet if you have sounds of Calypso in your ears, it feels like, at least 50% of you, is away on some beach getting drunk. Strut Records have decided to use this as an apt opportunity to release a collection of “Wit, Wisdom and Soul from the King of Calypso 1962-1974”. I have no idea if Mighty Sparrow deserves the title of King when it comes to Calypso, as most of my knowledge of the genre comes from Harry Belafonte, but if this collection is Mighty Sparrow at his best, then it definitely is at the top of the Calypso totem.
I don’t think I’ve ever uttered the words, “You know what I could go for? Calypso.” I’m not entirely convinced either that I ever will utter those words, but if I ever do, Mighty Sparrow is where I ‘m going to go looking. The sound is very reminiscent of the big band era of the 1950’s but with more soul, congos, and references to large penises and getting drunk. Seriously, almost every song is either about getting with a lady or getting wasted, with the odd political song thrown in for good measure. A live version of “No Money, No Love” is a great loser song for all the Lloyd Dobblers of the world, while “What’s the Use of Getting Sober” is pretty much spot on for all the Charles Bukowskis, and if you’re
either one of those luckless fellows then with Mighty Sparrow at your helm, at least you’ll be smiling. Sparrowmania! is an album dripping with drunken optimism, that’ll probably convince you that, yes you should get up and start dancing.
For every “Dancehall Brawl” and “Big Bamboo” (yes that is a reference to a dong) Mighty Sparrow throws in something like “The Slave” which gives frame of reference of where this music originates and basically why this music became popularized. Trinidad and Tobago is a small Caribbean island nation where Calypso originated from, and it came out of the clash of African and European roots, so you can imagine the heavy history that it comes from. American Navy bases stationed there really solidified the
popularity of Calypso music in North America, but at the same time was cause for much strife which you can hear in all of Mighty Sparrow’s music. The music is so catchy and happy though it’s hard not to just forget all that, grab a drink and a girl, and start dancing. Wow. It’s amazing what the power of music can do.
– Michael Unger