Harry Belafonte–Belafonte At Carnegie Hall

After a long while, I’m finally back on my trek through 1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. I’ve spent too long away from this blog, and writing in it over the last few days, about our Cancun trip, made me realize that. So I’m going to try something different to keep up with it.

Belafonte at Carnegie Hall
Belafonte at Carnegie Hall

Today, I’m listening to a recording by Harry Belafonte, called Belafonte At Carnegie Hall. (I had to skip over several Beethoven recordings, because I didn’t have any of them, and none of the specific recordings were available on Rhapsody. I’ll come back to them at a later time.)

Tom Moon’s caption for this recording is “‘Day-O’ Done Dramatically.” According to Mr. Moon, the evening’s concert was “tightly scripted,” yet Belafonte managed to make it sound impromptu. At this time of this show, which was April, 1959, he had hits with the “Banana Boat Song (Day-O),” as well as “Man Smart (Woman Smarter).” There is a wide variety presented in this show, from negro spiritual, to island music, to the Irish ballad, “Danny Boy.”

Moon’s key tracks are “Darlin’ Cora,” “Matilda,” “Man Smart (Woman Smarter),” and “The Banana Boat Song (Day-O).” The record is on the RCA label.

I’m fond of his treatment of “Cotton Fields.” He put some good feeling into that one. His rendition of “John Henry” is also quite good, adding some jazzy style to the old spiritual. I didn’t realize I knew the song “Jamaica Farewell.” I think I’ve heard The Kingston Trio. I like that song, too. The song mentioned above, “Man Smart (Woman Smarter)” is very cute. I enjoyed that one. I’ll confess, I’m not a huge fan of the “Banana Boat Song.” Please don’t throw things at me.

I was surprised to hear “Hava Nageela” on the record. I mean, one minute I’m in Jamaica, and the next, Belafonte is singing Hebrew at me. And pretty well, as far as I can tell. His soulful rendition of “Danny Boy” was performed acapella, and very beautifully.

The show closed out with a fun “sing-along” called “Matilda.” Overall, it’s a fun recording, with some variety. Belafonte is quite the entertainer.

Here’s a clip of him singing “Jamaica Farewell.”

Here he is with “Man Smart (Woman Smarter).” Not sure if it’s from this album or not.


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