I know absolutely nothing about Polly Bergen (sorry, Polly), but this 1957 Columbia records release, at one point, and likely very briefly, graced her hands. I imagine a 1957 year old Jane was a lover of Polly’s early film career, or perhaps Jane was just a monster fan of The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse (Polly hosted from 1954 – 1955 before getting her own show, The Polly Bergen Show in 1957). I found this copy at a Goodwill in the valley and decided I had to have it. Maybe I should give it a spin sometime…
60 tracks on one LP… are you kidding me? “Hells no” says Dick Hyman with his 1957 release, 60 Great All Time Songs Vol. 2 For Your Listening And Dancing Pleasure. As far as I can tell, there are four volumes total in the Great All Time Songs library, none of which I currently own, with the exception for the Vol. 2 you’re currently looking at. So, you know, there’s that.
I’ve rarely, if ever, searched for 78s at record shops. Up until a few weeks ago, 78s had been the illusive blind spot in my collection’s rearview mirror. Finding the occasional (Lawrence Welk) 78 at the corner thrift shop, I got a hunch and stopped by the local b&m to see if this rickety ol’ obsolete format was still being bartered enough to possess a specific nook on the floor. After scouring the relatively small shop, I asked the cashier (read: fellow record nut) if they had a section for 78s. They did, and they were neatly tucked away in the back of the $1 bin area, a section they call “the attic.” 10 minutes later, I unearthed this 1957 copy of Chicago Blues great, Muddy Waters. Along with a few Glenn Millers, a few Les Browns, a few Woody Hermans, and a Frank Sinatra, I walked out of my local brick & mortar with 12 78s, equalling 12, happily spent dollars I’d kept tucked inside my wallet. Moral of the story… formats may be lost, but they’re never forgotten.
Q: What do you get when you combine the mythical talents of jazz Gods Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Milt Jackson, Sonny Rollins, Kenny Clarke, Horace Silver and Percy Heath? A: Prestige 7109 AKA Bags’ Groove.
Bags’ Groove, the track, is presented on Bags’ Groove, the album, in two takes. Clocking in at a combined 20+ minutes, takes 1 and 2 Bags’ are just the slippery smooth, red-eyed blues you’d expect from the usual suspects, and sadly represents the only Monk / Davis combo I own on vinyl (a rectifiable issue, I assure you).
Recorded in 1954 but not released until 1957, Bags’ Groove, the album, is notable for featuring the first ever use on a studio recording of the Harmon mute, a specific sound Mr. Davis is particularly known for.
Bags’ Groove is perfect coffee sipping, sunny, Sunday morning music, and comes highly recommended.
This playful little selection sounds exactly like one would imagine by the parrot-laden cover and a title that is about as on-the-nose as could be humanly conceived. Throwaway titles for this album could have been: Riding the Coattails of the Rising Star, Harry Belafonte and His Successful Calypso Sound and This is Calypso Music, You Narrow-Minded Yankee.
Ok, I’ll admit, the only other Calypso music I’ve been exposed to was indeed Harry Belafonte, so this write-up isn’t going to be anything near groundbreaking (not that there would be any worry of that to begin with). So, that having been stated, here goes:
This is an exceptionally fun album! The singers, both male and female HAD to be sore with grinning stretch marks from the making of this album. It’s good-time music. Plain and simple. Did your dog just knock over his water dish for the 17th time during the last commercial break of Gentle Ben? This album will help cheer you up. Did you just find out that your spouse has been secretly cheating on you with your younger sibling and that the raised papules on your skin sustained while swimming in that lake in early June may in fact be Swimmer’s Itch? Calypso Holiday will free you from this and seemingly ANY First World trouble.
So, Wikipedia tells me that, ahem, “Calypso is a style of Afro-Caribbean music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago from African and European roots.” Being neither African nor European, I proceed to Google “Trinidad and Tobago. “ Well, Oxnard California this is not! The women are beautiful (and wearing next to nothing), and that has GOT to be some of the bluest water I’ve ever seen (Probably Photoshopped). I’ve never had any sizable itch to travel south of San Diego, but a Port of Spain vacation has just made my bucket list.
Focus track for side 1: Dance de Limbo (Track 6). I challenge any of you to listen to this song and NOT nod your head to the simple pleasures of the religiously pure Calypso sound. Think back about that pool of water on your kitchen floor… You are now getting thoughts of raiding the closet for a broom with which to start a Limbo. Get to the back of the line, buddy, and fix me another Flying Masturbator. (It Exists)
End of side 1
The first track on side 2, Sound de Fire Alarm begins an awful lot like Belafonte’s Jump in the Line (Shake Senora). I’m going to be thinking of this song while the “several-times-daily” fire trucks roll by my window to the rescue of some poor cat stranded up in a tree. Do cats still climb trees on LA’s west side?
Columbia Records put out this release in 1957, just 1 year after RCA’s release of Belafonte’s appropriately, and also on-the-nose album titled simply, Calypso. That album, having been only Belafonte’s 3rd, went on to sell over a million copies and spent 99 weeks on the U.S. Billboard charts. So, Columbia Records, being nether based in Columbia NOR, seemingly, having a creative bone in their corporate skeleton, decided to cash in on Mr. Belafonte’s raging success. As I’d mentioned, Belafonte is the only other Calypso artist I know, but I can promise that you’ll only read his name 1 more time during this write-up. Belafonte.
Allmusic.com doesn’t rate Calypso Holiday, or even provide an album cover. What type of flabbergasting tomfoolery is this! Somebody should write a letter. Here is their address:
1168 Oak Valley Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48108
Mr. Luboff unfortunately met his demise in September of 1987. I was eight then, and it would be close to fifteen years until I would even hear the poor man’s name. Well, he was talented, so I doubt he was poor, just poor in the sense that he’s now dead. For all I know he may have wanted to die, which would mean his death wasn’t poor at all. He had lung cancer which, I imagine doesn’t feel like a dip in the Caribbean Sea. Maybe his death was something of a sweet Calypso melody, softly kissing the ears of another eager listener. His NYT Obituary can be found here, if you’re into that kind of thing: Obit
Well, now I feel bad, having ended such an uplifting album on a morose disposition. The inevitable Yin to the Calypso Yang, I guess.
Quickly, the back cover suggests “Records sound best on Columbia phonographs.” So, remember that the next time you’re shopping for your next hi-fi home stereo system. Or don’t. I won’t know.