The Essential Harry Belafonte (RCA – B000A2BFS4, 2005)
This CD set is a well-rounded collection of 37 of Harry Belafonte’s best work from 1952 to 1977 and illustrates well his interesting background and tremendous talent.
Harry Belafonte is a first generation American, born to Caribbean parents in Harlem, New York on March 1st, 1927. He spent some time with his mother in Jamaica, returned to the States as a teenager but dropped out of high school to join the Navy and served in World War II. His musical career is intertwined with many other interests including acting for which he was the first African American to win an Emmy. I spent many a rainy day as a kid in the 70’s listening to my parents’ Belafonte 45’s and I have to say that this collection was a wonderful walk down memory lane. It includes almost every signature Belafonte song you could wish for including “Island In The Sun,” “Jamaica Farewell”, “Scarlet Ribbons,” “And I Love You So” and a fun live rendition of “Day-O” (Banana Boat Song).
There are a number of gospel/folks songs included on this CD that the casual listener may not be familiar with. The inclusion of the gospel/folk songs as
well as the better-known calypso songs gives you a pretty comprehensive sampling of Bellefonte’s work as a whole.
Often I find the sound quality on these types of CD’s lacking but sound quality on Essential Harry Belafonte was a pleasure to hear.
I would recommend this CD set to old fans as well as for those wanting an introduction to the various musical styles of Harry Belafonte.