The Mighty Sparrow

First Flight: Early Calypsos from the Emory Cook Collection (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings)

The nom de plume The Mighty Sparrow has proven apt for Slinger Francisco. The singer's birthplace — Grand Roy, Grenada, a country village better known for crops than calypso — is as unassuming as his winged namesake. But once Sparrow moved to Trinidad in the Fifties, he spread his wings and soon earned his title as the undisputed king of calypso music. This compilation shows off the initial flutterings of his musical evolution. The living legend displays sparkling wit in the baby-mama kiss-off "Dear Sparrow." "Gun Slingers" is as boastful as any of 50 Cent's club bangers. The bitter sting in Sparrow's misogynistic melodies "Stella," "Eve," and the infamous "Jean Marabunta" is somewhat sweetened by his soaring approximations of Fifties-era crooners. But Sparrow proves he isn't all hypersexualized swagger in "Russian Satellite," a tender lament for Laika, the "poor little puppy" sent to die in space in 1957.

 
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