The Mighty Sparrow First Flight

The calypso is a song style that disguises a wicked sense of humour and wit with a relatively perky exterior. The music is bouncy and sweet, but the lyrics belie the happy exterior by dealing with politics, violence, and the other issues facing the society at the time — it is a balance of seeming contradictions. Slinger Francisco, aka the Mighty Sparrow, whose name is another one of these contradictions, was one of the most famous calypso singers. This release from Smithsonian Folkways, collects some of his earliest calypsos, and packed with pictures and information, this disc gives the listener a view into the musical world in the Caribbean in the late ’50s. Although all the tracks are shining examples of this musical style, one of the most interesting is "Sparrow vs. Melody Picong,” a live recording of a calypso war, where two singers swing back and forth between improvised sung jibes, getting more and more intense, sharp, and hilarious as they go. The whole project comes together as an album with the temperament of calypso — a balance of pointed criticism and hilarious witticism, all wrapped up in a musical package that takes you straight to the hot dance halls of Trinidad. (Smithsonian Folkways)