Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Calypsos for Adam and Eve

This vivacious tropical cover for the Monogram label (disc: Kalypso Records Ltd., Jamaica) appears to be the handiwork of the same uncredited artist who illustrated Ritmo's Calypsos from Jamaica.

The above 7" EP features tracks by the Duke of Iron ("Big Bamboo"), Lord Kitchener ("Big Toe"), the Four Deuces ("Lemme Go Emelda"), and Sir George Brown ("He Like It, She Like It"). The A-sides, with Kitch and Duke of Iron, are classic Trinidad calypso, while the artists on side B reflect the Jamaican mento variant.

We would appreciate any information about the illustrator, whose style is audacious and singular.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Day Van Dyke Parks Went Calypso

Crawdaddy magazine (Nov 19): "Parks is generally a well-mannered and affable Southern-born gent with a mildly mischievous streak. A one-time child prodigy on clarinet, he’s often mentioned in tandem with his Southern California work with Beach Boy Brian Wilson, who was reportedly too tripped-out to continue their Smile-era collaborations. A formidable freethinker and raconteur of psychedelic dimensions himself, you can hear the Parks imprint, curly-cuing through 'Heroes and Villains' and 'Sail On, Sailor.' ... Rarely at a loss for bookings as a composer, arranger, musician, and producer (Parks would go on to work with artists from Harry Nilsson and Ringo Starr to Joanna Newsom and Rufus Wainwright), ... he juggled sessions by psychedelic bands as well as singer-songwriters Randy Newman and Phil Ochs. It was following the critical success of his first solo work, Song Cycle, in 1968 and the oil spill in ’69, that Parks began in earnest his pursuit of the music of the West Indies—specifically calypso and ... steel pan."

HT: Jeff Winner

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pillow Fight (Lord Kitchener)

Domestic violence on YouTube:

No guns, no knives, no fists—just a weapon whose use was chronicled by Monty Python's take on the Spanish Inquisition.

HT: Lane Steinberg

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tomatoes, touching

Bob Marley's mom recounts her young son's discovery of songs about fruit:

HT: Thelma

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Nobody but she husband

"Murder is nothing to brag about"—unless it sells a half-million records. TIME magazine fĂȘtes calypsonian Wilmoth Houdini, August 26, 1946.

HT: Doug Schulkind

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007


Claims he's "never eaten white meat yet."

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Bloodshot Eyes

Muriel's Treasure will not be returning to the WFMU airwaves this Fall. The host (who is not actually named Muriel) has been concentrating on this project and that.

Doesn't mean the Treasure won't return in 2008. Calypso is Dead! Long Live Calypso!

In the meantime, podcasts of previous broadcasts continue.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

David Stone Martin does Calypso

Disc Records 78 rpm CALYPSO album with cover illustration by the legendary David Stone Martin (1913-1993), whose work adorns hundreds of 1940s and 1950s jazz, blues, folk, and ethnic records.

In the early 1940s, the Chicago-born and -bred Martin befriended artist Ben Shahn, whose work proved inspirational. Martin got started in album cover design in 1944 when his friend, pianist Mary Lou Williams, persuaded her label to hire Martin to illustrate her next release. The company honcho, Moses Asch, was so impressed by Martin's virtuosity that he hired him as art director.

In the 1950s, Martin's moody figure studies for Norgran, Clef, Verve, and Mercury practically defined the illustrated jazz LP cover (in a manner far different than, say, Jim Flora). Eric Kohler, who reprinted over a dozen classic Martin LPs in his book In The Groove: Vintage Record Graphics 1940-1960, observed: "Many of Martin's covers did not have an actual image of the recording artist, but rather an abstract image that might recall the feeling of the music."

A book of his work, Jazz Graphics: David Stone Martin, was published in Japan in 1991. It is, sadly, out of print and hard to find. Martin's vital, cosmopolitan line art deserves renewed circulation.

The calypso album above contains three sides by Lord Invader ("Tied-Tongue Baby," Yankee Dollar in Trinidad," and "New York Subway") and three by Lord Beginner ("Shake Around," "Nora, the War is Over," and "Always Marry a Pretty Woman").

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Look Out, There's a Monster Coming

On the 2007 Muriel's Treasure WFMU marathon CD, entitled More Bedbugs, there's an unlisted 26th bonus track. Several recipients of the compilation have inquired about the mystery calypso. This isn't a clue; it's the answer. Not the worst calypso ever, nor the funniest. Not the most improbable — The Muppets recorded "Pig Calypso" — but perhaps the most ethnically unhinged. All hail, Victor Anthony Stanshall.

Inspiration: Ben Jackson

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Grotesque Dummy (El Monigote)

William Smith sent a 1958 paperback entitled Folk Songs of the Caribbean, collected by Jim Morse, published by Bantam. Along with a preface by noted songwriter Lord Burgess (Irving Burgie), the book contains lyrics to songs from Trinidad, Haiti, Jamaica, Honduras, Guatemala, and elsewhere in the tropical climes. I'm not familiar with many of these titles—it's not a calypso compendium, though works from Trinidad and Jamaica predominate, including such favorites as "Linstead Market," "Gin and Cocoanut Water," and "Out de Fire." Then there's this: "The Grotesque Dummy," from Venezuela. Macabre! Would love to hear a recording, if anyone's got one. Elsewise, here's the lyrics and chords—make your own version.