Personnel: Harry Belafonte (vocals); Harry Belafonte; Albertine Robinson, Pamela Kordan, Arthur Williams , Randy Peyton Quartet, Yolanda McCullough, Betty Volenec, Melvin W. Edmondson, Gloria Turner, Lani Groves, Larry Campbell, Lena Horne, Milt Grayson, Yvonne Lewis, Hilda Harris, Vivian Cherry, Frank Floyd (vocals); David Spinozza, Jorge Renan, Raphael Boguslav, James D. Hall, Keith Loving, Mildred J. Thomas, Art Ryerson, Frantz Casseus, Jay Berliner, Al Schackman, Lord Burgess, Scott Kuney, Mundell Lowe, Ernie Calabria (guitar); Floria Agostini, Marjorie Call (harp); Harry Glickman, Gustave Rosseels, Jerome G. Kasin, Harry Melnikoff, Felix Buldrini, Harry Orlewitz, Robert S. Levine, Jasha Herzog, Max Tartasky, Victor Arno, Israel Baker (violin); John DiJanni, Joseph Reilick, Sidney Brecher (viola); Martin Lake, Ennio Bologinini, Maurice Bialkin (cello); Mauricio Smith (flute, alto saxophone); Thomas Parshley, Tony Scott (flute); Carl Prager, Jack Greenberg, Romeo Penque (clarinet); Edwin Brown (oboe); Jules Jacob, Alex Gershunoff, E.C. Shank, Ted Nash, Jack Dumont, Theo M. Nash, Harry Klee, Jimmy Giuffre, Victor Garber, Wilbur Schwartz (saxophone); Babe Clarke (alto saxophone); Claudio Roditi, Donald Lipsey, Fred Jacobs, Charlie Margulis, Joseph B. Wilder, Marion Childers, Maynard Ferguson, Pete Candoli, Danny Cahn (trumpet); Attilio DePalma (French horn); Leopoldo Pineda, Jose Rodrigues, John Hailburton, Edward Kuczborski, Francis L. "Joe" Howard, Lou McGarity, Si Zentner (trombone); Howard Glover "Johnny" Johnson, Howard Johnson (tuba); Hal S. Hidley, Buster Davis, Jack Pleis (piano); Dom Salvador, Brian Moore (keyboards); Joe Venuti (marimba); Nathan Foodman, Robert M. Rosengarden, Rudolfo Curbelo, Donald Alpert, Michael Tobas, Irv Kluger, Kelly Martin, Percy Brice (drums); Danny Barrajanos, Steve Thornton (congas, bongos); Ralph MacDonald (congas, percussion); Raphael Rosario, Winslowe Daniel Barranjos, Wally Ferenz (congas); Frank Guerrero, Noah Rodriguez (bongos); Louis Singer, Arnold Manchester (percussion); Bob Dylan (harmonica); Dom Um Romao (percussion).
Liner Note Author: Ashley Kahn.
Recording information: 08/01/1952-01/09/1973.
Photographers: Cornel Capa; David Gahr; Alex Webb.
Arrangers: Harry Belafonte; Hugo Montenegro; William Eaton; Bob Freedman.
Harry Belafonte's influence on pop music is much more far reaching then many realize, as he was one of the first performers to bring worldbeat rhythms to the U.S. charts in the postwar era. Born in Harlem, but spending a good part of his childhood in his mother's native Jamaica, Belafonte grew up straddling cultures and musical styles, and bridging perceived differences became his calling card as an entertainer. His silky smooth mixture of jazz, folk, pop, and art song, often with impossibly infectious West Indies-styled accompaniment, coupled with his charismatic good looks and easy, hip coolness and sharp racial and political sense meant he was never reduced to being a mere commodity, even though he spent his whole career on major labels. This generous two-disc set (both discs track in at over 70 minutes) is the first affordable cross-label Belafonte collection to combine highlights from his stays at both the RCA and CBS labels, and the selections included here, spanning the years 1952 to 1977, were made by Belafonte himself. There's very little to quibble about (although one wonders about including a live version of his biggest hit, "Banana Boat Song (Day O)," instead of the original single version), and this thoughtfully sequenced set is easily the best introduction to the full range of his work currently on the market. Highlights are many, but include a 20-year-old Bob Dylan sitting in on harmonica for 1962's "Midnight Special," a defining version of Irving Burgie's gorgeous "Jamaica Farewell" from 1956, the adventurous worldbeat arrangement of "Turn the World Around" from 1977, an emotionally balanced rendition of Pete Seeger's haunting "Those Three Were on My Mind" from 1967, and an irresistible horn-led version of "Jump in the Line" from 1966's Calypso in Brass album. Belafonte's versatility may surprise some casual listeners who are only familiar with "Day O," and this set underscores his unique ability to find pop success with artful and socially committed material. Innovative, intelligent, and unceasingly creative, Belafonte is long overdue for a critical reappraisal. ~ Steve Leggett