You are transported to Carnegie Hall 1959. 5/5 LP Review
The granddaddy of all live albums, this disc captures the excitement of a Harry Belafonte concert at the height of his popularity! Sampled from two consecutive performances of identical material, Belafonte at Carnegie Hall was an anomaly at a time when only comedy albums were recorded outside of the studio environment.
It wasn't the first live album ever made, but it was certainly the first to be a major financial and artistic success.
Harry Belafonte has always been a musical chameleon. Using a thick base of folk music, he added blues, soul, jazz, pop and a plethora of various Caribbean styles to create albums that were unique, socially relevant and just plain entertaining. The first of his two essential live recordings produced by Bob Bollard at New York's famed Carnegie Hall features material culled from two identical performances on April 19 and April 20, 1959 to benefit The New Lincoln School and Wiltwyck Scholl respectively.
Belafonte At Carnegie Hall was documented at the height of the singer's success when it wasn't fashionable to record outside of the studio environment, yet it proved to be an artistic and commercial breakthrough for the music legend, earning a nomination for Album of the Year at the 1961 Grammy Awards and lingering on the charts for over three years. The revered 19-track affair is divided into the three acts Moods of the American Negro, In the Caribbean, and Round the World, and finds Belafonte's world class voice wonderfully supported by a a small combo of two guitars, bass, and percussion, and a perfectly timed 47-piece orchestra conducted by Robert Corman.
"You can count on one hand the number of times recording microphones happen to be “on the scene” at the right time and the right place to capture an inspired moment of performance. This is one of those few. What started as almost a reckless recording risk turned into another giant statement in the Belafonte story.
The idea of taping the two Carnegie Hall Benefit performances was not Harry’s; we asked for it, part hunch, part wild gamble.
"Recording hazards were many: – immense preparations and permissions with musicians, stage hands and the hall, – microphoning a performer who roamed all over the stage, shouted, whispered, provoked audience singing, – accompaniments which varied from a 47-piece symphony to a single guitar and bongos, – and, above all, the one-time-only chance for a good pickup and performance.
"What happened April 19th and 20th is historic even at Carnegie. There are always ways of explaining and analyzing after the fact. There must have been a special performance challenge in Belafonte’s first Carnegie Hall program, for example. There was also the sharp exhilaration for soloist and audience sharing the same emotional setting: a huge house packed two nights in a row for a splendid charity (Belafonte’s singing contributed $58,000 on one night alone to the Wiltwyck School which works with emotionally disturbed boys.) And each song was a familiar and famous high spot from a remarkable career.
"All of these undoubtedly added their impetus and made this concert soar. The exciting fact is that we can actually hear it as it happened. Belafonte’s spontaneous sorcery with an audience is on disc for the first time. Through the expectant audience hush, the beating introduction, the opening shots of Darlin’ Cora, the Belafonte high voltage mounts by the moment. This is Belafonte “live.”
"Almost one whole side has been reserved for the concert climax: the famous uncut Belafonte treatment of Matilda.
All Carnegie Hall sings and rocks – the same mighty crescendo which took place at a packed Waldorf Ballroom, Lewisohn Stadium and personal appearances everywhere.
But this time for all of us via microphone and tape machine.
"There has been no re-recording of rehearsals or sound tries, no splicing, (there rarely is even on Belafonte studio performances).
This is what actually happened. The same songs were programmed both evenings.
Performances selected here are about equally divided between the two nights." - Bob Bollard, original album liner notes
Bob Bollard (producer)
Robert Corman (conductor)
Harry Belafonte (vocals)
Millard Thomas / Raphael Boguslav (guitar)
Norman Keenan (bass)
Danny Barrajanos (percussion)
200g 2LP-set from Analogue Productions
Mastered by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound from the original analog 3-track tapes
Plated and pressed at Quality Record Pressings
Old-school "tip-on" heavyweight gatefold jacket by Stoughton Printing
Harry Belafonte Belafonte At Carnegie Hall Track Listing:
1. Act 1: The Moods of the American Negro - Introduction / Darlin' Cora
2. Act 1: The Moods of the American Negro - Sylvie
3. Act 1: The Moods of the American Negro - Cotton Fields
4. Act 1: The Moods of the American Negro - John Henry
5. Act 1: The Moods of the American Negro - Take My Mother Home
6. Act 1: The Moods of the American Negro - The Marching Saints
7. Act 2: In The Caribbean - Day O
8. Act 2: In The Caribbean - Jamaica Farewell
9. Act 2: In The Caribbean - Man Piaba
10. Act 2: In The Caribbean - All My trials
1. Act 2: In The Caribbean - Mama Look A Boo Boo
2. Act 2: In The Caribbean - Come Back Lisa
3. Act 2: In The Caribbean - Man Smart (Woman Smarter)
4. Act 3: Round The World - Hava Nageela
5. Act 3: Round The World - Danny Boy
6. Act 3: Round The World - Merci Bon Dieu (from the "Haitian Suite")
7. Act 3: Round The World - Cu Cu Ru Cu Cu Paloma
8. Act 3: Round The World - Shenandoah
9. Act 3: Round The World - Matilda