Irving Burgie - The Father of Modern Calypso
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Irving Burgie
The Father of Modern Calypso
Valley Entertainment (

cd cover The title might sound overblown to those who don't recognize the name, but consider that Irving Burgie wrote eight songs for what became Harry Belafonte's million-selling 1956 vehicle to stardom, Calypso, and contributed his songwriting talents to two subsequent popular Belafonte efforts. Likewise, among many others, the Kingston Trio owes a debt to Burgie. The son of a Barbadian immigrant, born in Brooklyn, he later composed the national anthem of Barbados, and wrote for off-Broadway productions. Altogether, we're talking the defining oeuvre of international calypso pop: "Day-O," "Jamaica Farewell," "Yellow Bird," "Angelina," "Kingston Market," "Wheel and Turn," "Island in the Sun" and then some (he didn't study at the Julliard for nothing). Remarkably, this is the septuagenarian singer-songwriter's first full-length release. Herein, he covers 16 of his own songs, whose engaging hooks, self-styled rhyming license and disarming simplicity keep the listener ever so slightly off kilter. Burgie himself may be no Belafonte, but his reggae-inflected "Day-O" gives Harry B. a good run, and he's an indomitable musical spirit. Check his off-the-cuff delivery on the catchy, cheerfully droll and ever so smartly rendered "I'm a Candy," a new song that shows he's in no hurry to tally his bananas. Burgie's creations show an engaging fluidity and conversance in diverse musical idioms, so even the over-produced (e.g., "Love Will Come By," another new one, perfect salsa crossover lite, but with a cooking if uncredited horn section) convey a singular and undaunted humanity. To be sure, Burgie is nothing if not a showman, so it's no surprise to learn that he's writing the score for an upcoming theatrical rendition of his life as a songster of global record. The proverbial West Indian man of words, he's one tart bonbon to be sure, no sucker, and you can take that to any bank in Kingston Town. - Michael Stone

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