Calypso Rose is 78 and a calypsonian (a new word on us). She started writing songs at 15, and has composed more than 800 tunes and recorded more than 20 albums. Born Linda Sandy-Lewis, she grew up on Tobago, the birthplace of calypso.
This new one is a follow-up to her 2016 platinum seller Far from Home, which led to a Womex artist of the year award (us neither) and the Victoires de la Musique, a French Grammy.
This new album reprises the music from across her career, from Aretha Franklin to Jamaican band The Melodians.
To be blunt, you wouldn’t know this was calypso and not reggae unless someone told you (calypso is the older form and influenced the latter), so it sounds like the happy reggae you might hear on the radio on holiday, and really enjoy.
It’s a mix of covers and originals and all sounds fresh and sunny; songs like Dionne Warwick’s Say A Little Prayer sound good for covers of classics, as does Rivers of Babylon, renditions of which we normally find tiresome.
The lyrics range from social comment — the African diaspora in Israel By Bus — to the earthy: A Man Is A Man is about the useless gender, who are good for one thing — any man “can give you satisfaction” be he large or small, one foot or one hand, or with a face like a frying pan. But avoid dead ones, they’re not much use.
The Guardian reports she won the title of Calypso Queen five years straight in the 1970s, and after moving to New York, retrained as a criminologist.
Good party music.